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J Clin Invest. 1981 Oct;68(4):1018-27.

Direct effects of thyrotropin-releasing hormone, cyproheptadine, and dopamine on adrenocorticotropin secretion from human corticotroph adenoma cells in vitro.


In an attempt to delineate the mechanism and the site of action of cyproheptadine and dopaminergic agonists as well as hormones including thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) and hydrocortisone, the effects of these substances on ACTH secretion from corticotroph adenoma cells in culture were examined. Dispersed cells of pituitary adenomas obtained at surgery from four patients with Nelson's syndrome and one subject with Cushing's disease formed a monolayer and actively secreted ACTH into the medium. When TRH (0.1 microM) was added to the medium, a significant increase in ACTH secretion was demonstrated by adenoma cells from two patients who responded to TRH preoperatively. Moreover, a dose-response relationship between TRH concentrations and ACTH secretion was observed. Incubation of cells with cyproheptadine (1 or 0.1 microM) resulted in a significant decrease in ACTH release, and inhibited stimulation produced by TRH in one experiment. This effect of cyproheptadine was blocked when equimolar concentrations of serotonin was coincubated, whereas serotonin by itself did not affect ACTH secretion. Dopamine (0.1 microM) lowered ACTH accumulation in the medium, which was blocked by the addition of haloperidol. When hydrocortisone was added to the culture, dose-dependent suppression of ACTH secretion was demonstrated. TRH at an equimolar concentration reversed this effect, but, failed to overcome the inhibition induced by a higher concentration of hydrocortisone in cells from one adenoma studied. Cultured normal corticotrophs obtained from a patient with metastatic breast cancer, on the other hand, did not show any response to these substances, except for hydrocortisone. We suggest that TRH, cyproheptadine, dopamine affect ACTH secretion in patients with ACTH-producing pituitary adenomas by their direct action on the adenoma.

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