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Endocrinology. 2005 Sep;146(9):3975-84. Epub 2005 May 26.

Gonadotropin-induced adrenocortical neoplasia in NU/J nude mice.

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Department of Pediatrics, Box 8208, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis Children's Hospital, 660 South Euclid Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


In response to prepubertal gonadectomy certain inbred mouse strains, including DBA/2J, develop sex steroid-producing adrenocortical neoplasms. This phenomenon has been attributed to a lack of gonadal hormones or a compensatory increase in gonadotropins. To assess the relative importance of these mechanisms, we created a new inbred model of adrenocortical neoplasia using female NU/J nude mice. These mice developed adrenocortical neoplasms in response to either gonadectomy or gonadotropin elevation from xenografts of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)-secreting Chinese hamster ovary cells. In each instance the adrenal tumors resembled the neoplasms found in gonadectomized DBA/2J mice and were composed of spindle-shaped A cells and lipid-laden B cells. Both cell populations were defined by ectopic expression of GATA-4 and an absence of the adrenocortical markers melanocortin-2-receptor and steroid 21-hydroxylase, but only B cells expressed the gonadal steroidogenic markers inhibin-alpha, LH receptor, P450c17, and P450c19. Expression of sex steroidogenic markers was attenuated in the neoplastic adrenal cortex of hCG-treated vs. gonadectomized mice. Whereas neoplastic adrenals were an obvious source of estradiol in gonadectomized mice, ovaries appeared to be the major source of this hormone in hCG-treated mice. Gonadectomy and hCG treatment elicited comparable increases in serum estradiol, but testosterone levels increased significantly only in hCG-treated mice. We conclude that chronic gonadotropin elevation, caused by either gonadectomy or hCG administration, signals a population of cells in the adrenal subcapsular region of permissive mice to undergo differentiation along a gonadal rather than an adrenal lineage. Thus, NU/J nude mice can be used as a model to study both neoplasia and adrenogonadal lineage specification.

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