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Endocrinology. 2007 Aug;148(8):3914-21. Epub 2007 Apr 26.

Administration of adrenocorticotropic hormone during chicken embryonic development prematurely induces pituitary growth hormone cells.

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Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


Treatment of fetal rats and embryonic chickens with exogenous glucocorticoids induces premature GH cell differentiation. However, it is unknown whether the developing adrenal gland is capable of mounting this response autonomously. The present study determined whether stimulation of the adrenal gland in developing chicken embryos through administration of ACTH could induce a premature increase in GH cells. We found that plasma corticosterone and ACTH levels increased between embryonic day (e) 11 and e17, consistent with GH cell (somatotroph) ontogeny. Injection of ACTH into eggs on e9, e10, or e11 increased somatotrophs on e14. In contrast, thyroid-stimulating hormone, CRH, alpha-MSH, GHRH, and TRH were ineffective. Culture of e11 pituitary cells with ACTH failed to induce somatotrophs, suggesting an indirect action of ACTH on GH cells in vivo. Intravenous administration of ACTH dramatically increased plasma levels of corticosterone within 1 h and increased the percentage of pituitary somatotrophs within 24 h. Although ACTH administration increased the relative abundance of pituitary GH cells, there was no effect on plasma levels of GH, IGF-I, or IGF-II, or in hepatic expression of IGF-I or IGF-II mRNA. We conclude that ACTH administration can increase the population of GH cells in the embryonic pituitary. However, this treatment alone does not lead to downstream activation of hepatic IGF production. These findings indicate that the embryonic adrenal gland, and ultimately anterior pituitary corticotrophs, may function to regulate pituitary GH cell differentiation during embryonic development.

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