We investigated the involvement of second messenger systems in the control by pituitary cytotropic factor (CTF) of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) expression in primary cultures of hypothalamic cells. Forskolin, an activator of adenylyl cyclase, as well as Sp-cAMP[S] [(Sp)-cyclic adenosine 3’, 5’-monophosphothioate], a cAMP agonist, and theophylline, an inhibitor of phosphodiesterase activity, stimulate the secretion of dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) and dopamine (DA), suggesting a role for cAMP-dependent protein kinase in the secretion of catecholamines by hypothalamic dopaminergic cells. When cells were cultured with either CTF or forskolin for 14 days, a progressive increase in the secretion of DOPA and DA was observed throughout the period of incubation. At the end of the 2-week culture period, the amount of TH in the cells, determined by immunoblot analysis, was appreciably increased compared to controls. When the cells were analyzed immune-cytochemically for TH, the TH-positive cells that had been incubated with CTF or forskolin for 2 weeks were found to have neurites that appeared larger than those of TH-positive cells in the controls. The diameters of the perikarya of TH-positive cells in cultures incubated with CTF also appeared larger than the controls. After incubation of hypothalamic cells with CTF for 96 h, the amount of TH mRNA in the cultures was significantly increased. When membranes isolated from PC12 cells were incubated for 10 min with 50 μM forskolin, the specific activity of adenylyl cyclase was increased 20-fold; CTF had no effect on adenylyl cyclase activity of PC12 cell membranes. Yet, CTF significantly (P < 0.001) stimulated the secretion of DOPA and DA by PC12 cells. When hypothalamic cells were incubated with both forskolin and CTF, using doses of each that stimulated maximal secretion, the secretion of DOPA and DA was equal to sum of the secretions with each stimulant alone. These additive actions of forskolin and CTF and the failure of CTF to activate adenylyl cyclase in membranes of PC12 cells suggest that forskolin and CTF stimulate catecholamine secretion by hypothalamic dopaminergic cells through different mechanisms, perhaps through different protein kinases. When hypothalamic cells were incubated with CTF and W-7 [N-(6-aminohexyl)5-chloro-1-naphthalenesulfonamide], an inhibitor of calmodulin, the secretion of DOPA was significantly (P < 0.001) less than that in cultures that were not incubated with W-7. The findings of this study suggest that TH expression in hypothalamic dopaminergic cells is controlled by redundant protein kinases, including cAMP-dependent protein kinase and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase.
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