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J Biol Chem. 1993 Nov 25;268(33):24967-75.

Post-translational processing of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) in mouse pituitary melanotroph tumors induced by a POMC-simian virus 40 large T antigen transgene.

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  • 1Vollum Institute for Advanced Biomedical Research, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland 97201.


Mice harboring a transgene composed of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) gene promoter sequences (nucleotides -706 to +64) ligated to the simian virus (SV) 40 early gene encoding large T antigen developed large POMC-expressing pituitary tumors. Histologically the tumors arose from the intermediate lobe, contained nuclear SV40 T antigen and POMC peptides, but did not express other pituitary hormones. POMC processing in the pituitary tumors was indistinguishable from normal mouse intermediate lobe melanotrophs and was characterized by high proportions of acetylated and carboxyl-terminal shortened beta-endorphins, and amino-terminal acetylated alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, and virtually no adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)(1-39), beta-lipotropin, or POMC. The tumors contained abundant levels of mRNA for the prohormone convertase PC2 and undetectable levels of PC1. Normal mouse neurointermediate lobe also has a high ratio of PC2/PC1 expression that is distinct from the relative abundance of PC1 in anterior lobe and AtT-20 corticotroph cells. In contrast, extracts from tumors transplanted subcutaneously in nude mice contained predominantly nonacetylated forms of beta-endorphin(1-31) and -(1-27), very little ACTH(1-39), almost no corticotropin-like intermediate peptide or alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone, and higher proportions of intact POMC. Surprisingly, despite the less efficient proteolytic cleavage, a transplanted tumor expressed both PC1 and PC2. These studies are the first biochemical documentation of a melanotroph pituitary tumor in a rodent species and provide a new model for the investigation of pituitary oncogenesis and the molecular basis of tissue-specific prohormone post-translational processing.

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