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ABSTRACT: While lipopolysaccharides (LPS) are known to activate the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, their direct effects on proopiomelanocortin (POMC) and adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) expression at the pituitary level through Toll-like receptors (TLRs) remain unclear. In this study, we examined the effects of LPS on ACTH secretion and the transcription of the POMC gene in the AtT20 mouse pituitary corticotroph cell line. RT-PCR analysis showed that TLR1-4 and 6 subtype mRNAs were expressed in AtT20 cells. When the cells were treated with LPS, a significant increase in the 5'-promoter activity of POMC gene was observed at 24 h, without any stimulatory effect on ACTH secretion. LPS also stimulated the expression of c-Fos gene and protein, and AP1-, but not NF-kappaB-, mediated transcription. Overall, our data show the expression of TLRs in the pituitary corticotroph cells, and suggest the direct stimulatory effect of LPS on POMC gene expression via TLR (probably TLR4), although the intracellular signaling pathways in the corticotroph may be different from those in immune cells.
Endocr J. 55(2):285-90.