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C Delarue, JM Conlon, I Remy-Jouet, A Fournier, and H Vaudry

Besides the classical corticotropic hormones, ACTH and angiotensin II, various regulatory peptides produced by the adrenal gland are thought to participate in the control of corticosteroid secretion. Here, we review the evidence that endothelins (ETs) synthesized within the adrenal cortex may act as autocrine and/or paracrine factors to regulate adrenocortical cell activity. The expression of ETs has been detected in normal, hyperplastic and neoplastic adrenocortical cells. The occurrence of ET receptors has been described in the different zones of the cortex. ETs stimulate the secretion of both glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, and modulate the proliferation of adrenocortical cells. The effects of ETs on steroidogenic cells are mediated through the activation of various signaling mechanisms including stimulation of phospholipase C, phospholipase A2 and adenylyl cyclase activity, as well as calcium influx through plasma channels. These observations suggest that locally produced ETs may play an important role in the regulation of corticosteroid secretion and in the control of mitogenesis in normal and tumoral adrenocortical cells.

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Y Wang, I Remy-Jouet, C Delarue, M Letourneau, A Fournier, H Vaudry, and JM Conlon

ABSTRACT Despite the intensive study of endothelin (ET) in mammals, the primary structure and biological activity of the peptide is not known for any species of non-mammalian tetrapod. Extracts of the stomach and the liver of the European green frog Rana ridibunda contained ET-like immunoreactivity measured by RIA using an antiserum raised against human ET-1. The amino acid sequence of the peptide that was isolated in pure form from the stomach extract was identical to that of human ET-1 and the peptide purified from the liver extract was identical to human ET-3 except for a single amino acid substitution (Phe(4)-->Tyr). These observations demonstrate that the amino acid sequences of ET family peptides have been very strongly conserved during evolution of tetrapods and suggest that the pathway of post-translational processing of preproendothelin in the frog is similar to that in mammals. Both frog/human ET-1, frog ET-3 and human ET-3 produced a concentration-dependent increase in the production of corticosteroids from perifused slices of the frog interrenal gland. The maximum responses produced by the peptides (approximately 2-fold increase over basal levels for both corticosterone and aldosterone production) were not significantly different. The potency of ET-1 (-log EC(50)=9.81+/-0.01 (s.e.m.) for corticosterone and 9.52+/-0.29 for aldosterone production) was significantly (P<0.01) greater than that of frog ET-3 (-log EC(50)=8.13+/-1.6 for corticosterone and 8.15+/-0.33 for aldosterone production) but the potencies of frog ET-3 and human ET-3 (-log EC(50)=8.29+/-0.34 and 7.87+/-0.18) were not significantly different.

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E Pajot-Augy, L Couture, V Bozon, J-J Remy, G Biache, M Severini, J-C Huer, J-C Pernoller, and R Salesse


Porcine LH receptor ectodomain was overexpressed in insect cells and lepidopteran larvae using the recombinant baculovirus expression system. A low multiplicity of infection yielded the largest active production, of approximately 107 receptors/cell or 3 μg active receptor/mg total protein in infected cells. The truncated ectodomain solubilized with Triton X-100 bound its ligand with a high affinity which was comparable with that of the native membrane receptor. Increasing the multiplicity of infection resulted in an optimum protein production of 0·6 mg receptor/mg total protein in infected cells. This receptor was largely inactive, probably trapped within aggregation pools. Active receptor could be recovered by dilution of the samples. No secretion of recombinant receptor was ever observed whatever the conditions of infection. Expression of the recombinant receptor in insect larvae was also tested. This low-cost system failed both to increase the amount of active receptor and to induce secretion into the haemolymph. Two methods remain for producing sizeable amounts of active receptor with this baculovirus/insect cell system. One relies on immunoaffinity purification of the active protein and requires large-scale production, and the other is based on the purification of overexpressed inactive receptor followed by renaturation.

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M Delhase, F Rajas, P Verdood, C Remy, P Chevallier, B Velkeniers, J Trouillas, and E L Hooghe-Peters


We have combined different techniques to analyse passages of five different rat spontaneous pituitary tumours (SMtTW) that were transplanted under the kidney capsule. These tumours were secreting prolactin (PRL), GH or both hormones. RIA, immunocytochemistry (ICC) and Western blot analysis were applied to characterize the hormone(s) stored (ICC and Western blot) and secreted (RIA). mRNA content was analysed by PCR, Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridization.

The data point not only to the reliability of the techniques used at both protein and RNA levels for each tumour studied but also to the complementarity of some techniques. For example, whereas Northern blot analysis demonstrates the presence and size of hormone mRNA, in situ hybridization indicates the percentage of cells expressing a given hormone mRNA and allows the presence of one population (or more) of cells in a given tumour to be identified.

Moreover, the tumours were compared with normal rat pituitary. Although the PRL and GH mRNAs were identical in size, the amount of mRNA was lower in the tumours. At the protein level, the PRL and GH variants exhibited a different pattern of expression in tumours compared with the normal rat pituitary.

The biological significance of these differences is discussed.