Identification of a serine protease involved with the regulation of adrenal growth
Bicknell, A. B. (2003) Identification of a serine protease involved with the regulation of adrenal growth. In: Cone, R. D. (ed.) Melanocortin System. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 994. New York Acad Sciences, New York, pp. 118-122. ISBN 0077-8923 1573314420
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The adrenal cortex is a dynamic organ in which the cells of the outer cortex continually divide. It is well known that this cellular proliferation is dependent on constant stimulation from peptides derived from the ACTH precursor pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) because disruption of pituitary corticotroph function results in rapid atrophy of the gland. Previous results from our laboratory have suggested that the adrenal mitogen is a fragment derived from the N-terminal of POMC not containing the gamma-MSH sequence. Because such a peptide is not generated during processing of POMC in the pituitary, we proposed that the mitogen is generated from circulating pro-gamma-MSH by an adrenal protease. Using degenerate oligonucleotides, we identified a secreted serine protease expressed by the adrenal gland that we named adrenal secretory protease (ASP). In the adrenal cortex, expression of ASP is limited to the outer zona glomerulosa/fasciculata, the region where cortical cells are believed to be derived, and is significantly up-regulated during compensatory growth. Y1 adrenocortical cells transfected with a vector expressing an antisense RNA (and thus having reduced levels of endogenous ASP) were found to grow slower than sense controls while also losing their ability to utilize exogenous pro-gamma-MSH in the media supporting a role for ASP in adrenal growth. Digestion of an N-POMC peptide substrate encompassing the residues around the dibasic cleavage site at positions 49/50 with affinity-purified ASP showed cleavage not to occur at the dibasic site but two residues downstream leading us to propose the identity of the adrenal mitogen to be N-POMC (1-52).