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Keywords:

  • NF-κB;
  • folliculostellate;
  • corticotroph;
  • adrenocorticotrophin

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) responses to bacterial infection are mediated, in part, by the actions of lipopolysaccharide (LPS) on pituitary folliculostellate (FS) cells that release pro-inflammatory cytokines [e.g. interleukin (IL)-6] and thereby facilitate adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) release from neighbouring corticotrophs. In the present study, two murine pituitary cell lines [TtT/GF (FS cells) and AtT20 D16:16 (corticotrophs)], alone and in co-culture, and an in vivo model of endotoxaemia were used to examine the potential role of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB) in mediating LPS-induced ACTH secretion. Both cell lines expressed mRNAs for the key components of the LPS signalling system. LPS stimulated IL-6 release from TtT/GF cells via a glucocorticoid-sensitive, NF-κB-dependent mechanism; it also activated NF-κB in AtT20 cells, as did corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). IL-6 potentiated (but LPS reduced) the stimulatory effects of CRH on ACTH release from AtT20 cells, whereas blockade of NF-κB (SC-514) increased the ACTH release induced by CRH in the presence or absence of LPS. In co-cultures, CRH and LPS acted synergistically to induce release of both IL-6 and ACTH. However, although SC-514 suppressed the release of IL-6 evoked by CRH and LPS, it potentiated the concomitant increase in ACTH release. In vivo both immunological (LPS) and psychological (restraint) stress increased intrapituitary NF-κB, whereas an NF-κB inhibitor (PHA781535E) attenuated the LPS-induced release of ACTH and abolished the HPA response to restraint stress. The results obtained in the present study support the premise that NF-κB plays an important role in mediating LPS signalling in the anterior pituitary gland, particularly in relation to IL-6 and ACTH secretion, and provide novel evidence that NF-κB blockade in vivo compromises stress-induced ACTH release.