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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1981 Dec;78(12):7530-4.

Human lymphocyte production of corticotropin and endorphin-like substances: association with leukocyte interferon.


Human leukocyte interferon (hIFN-alpha) preparations contain immunologically and biologically recognizable endorphin and corticotropin-like (ACTH-like) activities. The ACTH bioactivity was demonstrable only after pepsin or acid treatment. Highly purified hIFN-alpha was composed of two molecular species of interferon (18,500 and 23,000 daltons). Endorphin activity was associated with both of these molecules. Pepsin treatment of the 23,000-dalton but not the 18,500-dalton hIFN-alpha generated ACTH activity. In acid, the 23,000-dalton hIFN-alpha broke down into the 18,500-dalton form and ACTH (4500 daltons). The ACTH derived from hIFN-alpha by pepsin digestion comigrated with a purified ACTH standard in NaDodSO4/polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis. hIFN-alpha-producing lymphocytes showed positive immunofluorescence after staining with highly specific antisera to ACTH alpha-(1-13) and gamma-endorphin. Essentially 100% of the human peripheral lymphocytes were capable of producing both ACTH and gamma-endorphin-related substances, presumably associated with hIFN-alpha. These results strongly suggest a circuit between the immune and neuroendocrine systems which involves neuroendocrine hormone-like substances, some of which are associated with hIFN-alpha

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