Investigating the role of adrenal cortex in organization and differentiation of the adrenal medulla in mice.
ABSTRACT Functions of adrenal medulla, particularly synthesis of catecholamine, are under the control of glucocorticoids produced by the cortex. To further investigate whether development/differentiation of the adrenal medulla is associated with proper organization of the adrenal cortex, we examined development of the medulla in four different mouse models with various defects in the adrenal cortex. By using the Sf1/Cre mouse line that inactivates/activates genes in Steroidogenic factor 1 (SF1)-positive cells of the fetal adrenal cortex, we produced mice that exhibit either (1) cortex hypoplasia, (2) progressive degeneration of fetal adrenal cortex, (3) cortex dysgenesis, or (4) cortex-medulla disorganization. The formation of phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PNMT)-positive medulla in all models indicates that differentiation of adrenal medulla is independent of the growth of adrenal cortex. However, the misplaced/dysgenic medulla in embryos where β-catenin expression is altered, suggests that the β-catenin pathway in the adrenal cortical cells plays an indirect role in controlling proper organization of the adrenal medulla.