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We have shown recently that leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and oncostatin M (OSM), two members of the gp130-dependent cytokine family, stimulate murine proopiomelanocortin (POMC) transcription and adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) secretion. LIF and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) also synergistically induced in vivo ACTH secretion in fetal nonhuman primates. To elucidate the role of the gp130-related cytokines in human pituitary hormone regulation, we tested expression of gp130-related cytokine receptors in human fetal pituitaries. Using RT-PCR, mRNA expression of receptors for LIF, IL-6, and CRH, and the gp130 subunit, were all detected in fetal pituitaries of 18- and 31-wk gestation. Recombinant human IL-6, LIF, and OSM treatments of primary human fetal pituitary cultures (16-31 wk) increased ACTH secretion by up to 48% (P < 0.05) using doses of 1 nM, and when fetal cultures were cotreated with CRH, ACTH was induced five- to sixfold as compared to CRH alone (three- to fourfold; P = 0.01). Incubation with gp130-specific antibody suppressed basal and cytokine-stimulated ACTH secretion (alone or with CRH) from human fetal cells. Human POMC promoter -879/+6 fused to the luciferase reporter gene and transfected into AtT-20 cells, was stimulated by LIF (7-fold), which also exerted strong (22-fold) synergy with CRH on POMC transcription. Growth hormone (GH) release from fetal cultures was modestly stimulated (15-31%, P < 0.05), while other anterior pituitary hormones were not altered by these cytokines. Thus, physiologic concentrations of the gp130-related cytokines have direct effects on ACTH and GH regulation in the human pituitary, indicating that gp130-dependent signals serve as a paracrine system controlling early human pituitary function.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Invest

Publication Date





357 - 363


Adrenocorticotropic Hormone, Antibodies, Antigens, CD, Cells, Cultured, Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone, Cytokine Receptor gp130, Cytokines, DNA, Complementary, Fetus, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Growth Inhibitors, Human Growth Hormone, Humans, Interleukin-6, Leukemia Inhibitory Factor, Lymphokines, Membrane Glycoproteins, Oncostatin M, Peptides, Pituitary Gland, Anterior, Pro-Opiomelanocortin, RNA, Messenger, Transcription, Genetic, Transfection