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Endocrinology. 1998 Feb;139(2):772-80.

Basal steroidogenic activity of adrenocortical cells is increased 10-fold by coculture with chromaffin cells.

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Department of Internal Medicine III, University of Leipzig, Germany.


Historically, catecholamine-producing chromaffin cells and steroid-producing adrenocortical cells have been regarded as two independent endocrine systems that are united under a common capsule to form the adrenal gland. There is increasing evidence for bidirectional interactions, with regulatory influences of adrenocortical secretory products on adrenomedullary functions and vice versa. However, the direct involvement of chromaffin cells on the regulation and maintenance of cortical function has not yet been demonstrated. Therefore, we analyzed glucocorticoid secretion and P450 messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in bovine adrenocortical cells in cocultures with chromaffin cells compared with those in pure cortical cell cultures. Cortisol release from cortical cells in coculture with chromaffin cells was 10 times as high (mean +/- SEM, 1035 +/- 119%) as that from the same number of isolated cortical cells (100 +/- 11%). By a [3H]thymidine incorporation assay, it was demonstrated that this effect was not due to a higher proliferation rate. Northern analysis revealed an increasing expression of P450(17alpha) mRNA in the coculture from days 1-5, whereas in isolated cortical cells, P450(17alpha) mRNA decreased, leading to a 6-fold difference on day 5. Inhibitors of protein (cycloheximide) or RNA (actinomycin D) synthesis completely annulled the observed increase in cortisol release, indicating that de novo protein synthesis is required for this activation of adrenocortical steroidogenesis. Addition of the cyclooxygenase inhibitor indomethacin reduced the stimulatory effect, suggesting that this stimulation is in part mediated by PGs. Locally produced ACTH, catecholamines, and interleukin-1 accounted for 43% of the effect. Secretory products of chromaffin cells that act in concert are believed to be responsible for the stimulation of steroidogenesis in the coculture. The coculture system is an in vitro model that corresponds to the in vivo situation in the intact adrenal gland, where both endocrine cell systems are in close contact. Our data demonstrate the requirement of intraadrenal cellular communication for the full strength of the adrenocortical hormonal response.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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