In the intact rat, adrenalectomy (ADX) is known to result in increased ACTH synthesis, content, and secretion from the anterior pituitary compared with those in the shamadrenalectomized control. Treatment of adrenalectomized, rats with corticosterone prevents or reverses these changes in ACTH. Because corticosterone is known to act both at the corticotrope and at the level of CRF secretion, it is not clear to what extent the ACTH response to ADX is a result of removal of glucocorticoids from the pituitary per se. To test the role of brain input as well as the role of glucocorticoids on the corticotrope response to ADX, we performed the following experiment. Rats were prepared with anterolateral hypothalamic deafferentations (lesion) which severed CRF and arginine vasopressin cell bodies in the hypothalamus from their axonal endings in the median eminence and posterior pituitary. Control rats were subjected to sham lesions. Two days later, half of the rats in each group were subjected to either ADX or sham ADX; a subgroup of the lesioned rats was provided at the time of adrenal surgery with a constant infusion of rat CRF. Five days later, all rats were killed, and anterior pituitary levels of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA, ACTH, and protein; plasma ACTH and corticosterone, and adrenal and thymus weights were measured. In sham-lesioned rats, ADX resulted in increases in POMC mRNA, and plasma ACTH of 2.5- and 12-fold, respectively, compared to sham-adrenalectomized controls. In the absence of hypothalamic drive (lesion only), there were no responses of any of these variables to ADX. In lesioned rats driven with CRF, ADX resulted in increases in POMC mRNA and plasma ACTH of 2.2- and 2.6-fold, respectively, compared to sham ADX. After consideration of the three variables indicating ACTH synthesis, storage, and secretion and comparison of the results of ADX us. sham ADX within and across the sets of animals, we conclude that 1) there is no autonomous response of the corticotrope to ADX; 2) the removal of corticosterone from the anterior pituitary may account for the majority of the effects of ADX on ACTH synthesis; and 3) the normal response to ADX requires secretion of CRF and increased secretion of another ACTHreleasing factor (possibly arginine vasopressin) that causes increased secretion but little synthesis of ACTH.
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