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Although recent studies have suggested that purinergic receptors are expressed in the anterior pituitary gland, their involvement in the regulation of pituitary hormone gene expression is not completely understood. In the present study, we examined the expression of purinergic receptors and the effects of purinergic receptor ligands on pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene expression, in AtT20 mouse corticotroph cells. We identified the expression of most of the purinergic receptor subtypes (A1, A2, P2X1, 3-7, P2Y1, 2, 4) mRNAs, analysed by the reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction. We also found that adenosine and ATP, two representative and endogenous agonists of A1-3 and P2X/P2Y receptors, respectively, stimulated the 5'-promoter activity of the POMC gene in a dose- and time-related manner. When these ligands were simultaneously used with corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), effects that were more than additive were observed, suggesting an enhancing role of these compounds in CRH-mediated adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) synthesis. These ligands also stimulated the expression of transcription factors involved in the regulation of the POMC gene, but did not enhance ACTH secretion. Finally, the positive effect of adenosine as well as CRH was completely inhibited by the protein kinase A inhibitor H89, whereas that of ATP was not influenced, indicating that different intracellular signalling pathways mediate these effects. Altogether, our results suggest a stimulatory role for these purinergic receptor ligands in the regulation of POMC gene expression in corticotroph cells. Because adenosine and ATP are known to be produced within the pituitary gland, it is possible they may be acting in an autocrine/paracrine fashion.


L-F Zhao, Y Iwasaki, Y Oki, M Tsugita, T Taguchi, M Nishiyama, T Takao, M Kambayashi, K Hashimoto. Purinergic receptor ligands stimulate pro-opiomelanocortin gene expression in AtT-20 pituitary corticotroph cells. Journal of neuroendocrinology. 2006 Apr;18(4):273-8

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PMID: 16503922

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