Adjuvant arthritis (AA) in the rat leads to chronic stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the loss of its diurnal rhythmicity. We have investigated the effects of adrenalectomy (ADX) and different levels of corticosterone replacement upon plasma ACTH levels and anterior pituitary pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), GH and prolactin mRNAs during the development of AA. In control ADX animals, we observed the negative feedback effects of exogenous corticosterone on plasma ACTH and anterior pituitary POMC mRNA. In the ADX animal with AA, however, the increased POMC mRNA which was observed was not reduced by exogenous corticosterone on day 7 of AA, although the negative feedback effect of corticosterone on plasma ACTH was intact. On day 14, however, even high dose corticosterone replacement failed to have a significant feedback effect on the raised levels of plasma ACTH.
In control ADX animals, corticosterone replacement resulted in increased anterior pituitary GH mRNA and reduced prolactin mRNA. In contrast, in ADX animals with AA, GH mRNA was reduced and there was a further decrease in prolactin mRNA. In these animals, corticosterone replacement did not affect GH or prolactin mRNA expression.
These data demonstrate a disruption of the normal mechanisms underlying feedback inhibition of the HPA axis by glucocorticoids during AA. Similarly, the glucocorticoid-dependent regulation of GH and prolactin mRNA expression is altered in AA.