Localization of urocortin messenger RNA in rat brain and pituitary

M. L. Wong, A. Al-Shekhlee, P. B. Bongiorno, A. Esposito, P. Khatri, E. M. Sternberg, P. W. Gold, J. Licinio

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78 Citations (Scopus)


Pituitary function is regulated by hypothalamic releasing hormones secreted into hypophyseal-portal blood. A new hypothesis is that pituitary function might also be regulated at the local level by releasing hormones synthesized within the pituitary. Here we show that the pituitary expresses high levels of the gene encoding for urocortin. We suggest that urocortin synthesized by the pituitary may modulate pituitary function, and that adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion is dependent on input not only from the hypothalamus as previously described, but it may also be regulated by urocortin synthesized locally. Urocortin binds to the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) receptor type 1 (CRH-R1) with high affinity and potently stimulates pituitary-adrenal function. Our group and others have previously localized high levels of CRH-R1 mRNA in the pituitary. Using a 35S-labeled rat urocortin riboprobe we have now localized urocortin mRNA in rat brain and pituitary. The finding of urocortin gene expression in the pituitary may help explain why proopiomelanocortin (POMC) mRNA levels are not decreased during hypothalamo-pituitary disconnection, and also describes a new level of complexity in the regulation of hypothalamo-pituitary function. Future studies should consider the possibility that pituitary function might be regulated at the local level by urocortin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-312
Number of pages6
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 1996


  • Brain
  • In situ hybridization
  • Pituitary gland
  • Pituitary hormones
  • Rattus norvegicus
  • Urocortin
  • mRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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