Corticotrophs and peptides

Jeff Schwartz*, S. Revskoy, E. Redei, V. Clifton, R. Smith, R. Cherny

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Corticotrophs were long thought to be a static, homogeneous population of cells that respond positively to hypothalamic stimulation, are inhibited by glucocorticoid feedback and secrete a single biologically active peptide, ACTH(1-39). Our current understanding is that this is an oversimplification and corticotrophs are a dynamic and more complex group of cells. The biosynthetic precursors of ACTH and other cleavage products of proopiomelanocortin (POMC) have been found to be secreted by anterior pituitary cells, to circulate and to have biological activity. POMC and the biosynthetic intermediate, pro-ACTH, exert activity antagonistic to ACTH(1-39) on glucocorticoid secretion by adrenal cells, and other derivatives of POMC are mitogenic to adrenocortical cells. In terms of responses to hypothalamic and peripheral factors, corticotrophs are functionally heterogeneous. This is reflected in the sensitivity of individual subtypes of corticotrophs to CRH, vasopressin and glucocorticoids. There is a functional plasticity amongst the various types of corticotrophs. During gestation, in fetal sheep, changes occur in the overall ACTH-secretory responses to CRH relative to vasopressin, the proportions of total corticotrophs that respond to the respective peptides and the average secretory response of individual cells. Corticotrophs also respond to locally produced pituitary factors. Local actions of leukaemia inhibitory factor are demonstrated by the effects of immunoneutralization of the peptide in pituitary cells. Urocortin and preproTRH(178-199) are locally produced peptides with potent stimulatory and inhibitory actions on corticotrophs, respectively. The specific roles of these peptides are under investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-153
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Physiology and Biochemistry
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2002


  • ACTH
  • Anterior pituitary
  • CRH
  • Corticotroph regulation
  • Corticotroph secretion
  • POMC
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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