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Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1995 Feb-Mar;52(2-3):179-83.

Regulation of pituitary-adrenocortical activity by free fatty acids in vivo and in vitro.

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Department of Biology, Boston University, MA 02215, USA.


Virtually every metabolic disorder characterized by elevated plasma free fatty acid (FFA) levels is also associated with hypercorticoidism. For example, the glucocorticoid response to insulin-hypoglycemia is shown in this report to be greatly potentiated in Type I diabetic rats. Since glucocorticoids (corticosterone, in rats) potentiate lipolysis and promote gluconeogenesis, they exacerbate diabetes. We found that elevation of circulating FFA levels in normal rats (via Intralipid/heparin infusion) increased plasma levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and corticosterone, and resulted in hyperglycemia. In vitro, however, cultured pituitary cells were relatively unaffected by FFA except at very high concentrations. Neither basal ACTH secretion nor the ACTH response to corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) was affected by pathophysiological molar ratios of FFA:BSA. Thus, the ACTH secretory response to FFA in vivo likely is mediated via neuroendocrine activation. Cultured adrenocortical cells, however, were stimulated by oleic acid and, to a lesser extent, by linoleic acid; saturated fatty acids were without effect. The latencies of oleic acid-induced steroidogenesis in vitro and Intralipid-induced corticosterone secretion in vivo were both about 60 min. We conclude that pathophysiological levels of circulating FFA (typical of diabetes, obesity, starvation, and consumption of high-fat diets) initiate a positive feedback loop between the adipocyte and the HPA axis, which ultimately exacerbates the symptoms of these disorders.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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