Leukemia inhibitory factor induces differentiation of pituitary corticotroph function: an immuno-neuroendocrine phenotypic switch.
Stefana B., Ray DW., Melmed S.
Leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) promotes differentiated cell function in several systems. We recently reported LIF and LIF receptor expression in human fetal pituitary corticotrophs in vivo and demonstrated LIF stimulation of adrenocorticotrophin (ACTH) transcription in vitro, suggesting a role for LIF in corticotroph development. We therefore assessed the action of LIF on proliferating murine corticotroph cells (AtT20). LIF impairs proliferation of AtT20 cells (25% reduction versus control, P < 0.03), while simultaneously enhancing ACTH secretion (2-fold, P < 0.001) and augmenting ACTH responsiveness to corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) action (4-fold, P < 0.001). This attenuation of cell growth is due to a block of cell cycle progression from G1 into S phase, as measured by flow cytometric analysis (24 +/- 0.8 versus 11.57 +/- 1.5, P < 0.001). Using bromodeoxyuridine incorporation assays, loss of cells in S phase was confirmed (25 +/- 0.08 to 9.4 +/- 1.4, P < 0.008). In contrast, CRH induced the G2/M phase (3.6 +/- 0.2 to 15.4 +/- 3, P < 0.001). This effect was blunted by LIF (P < 0.001 versus CRH alone). Cyclin A mRNA levels, which decline in S phase, were stimulated 3.5-fold by LIF and markedly suppressed by CRH. These results indicate a LIF-induced cell cycle block occurring at G1/S in corticotroph cells. Thus, LIF reduces proliferation, enhances ACTH secretion, and potentiates effects of CRH on ACTH secretion while blocking effects of CRH on the cell cycle. Responses of these three markers of differentiated corticotroph function indicate LIF to be a differentiation factor for pituitary corticotroph cells by preferential phenotypic switching from proliferative to synthetic.