Adrenal glands from early, mid, and late fetuses of rabbit, guinea pig, and rat, and from newborn animals of each species, were incubated for 1-4 h with and without 0.1 nM-1 microM ACTH, alpha- or beta-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (alpha MSH or beta MSH). The effects of the peptides were measured on production of glucocorticoids, and on incorporation of labeled thymidine or leucine into DNA or protein, respectively. The findings were similar in all three species. ACTH stimulated synthesis of glucocorticoids throughout fetal life. Potency increased progressively, as reflected by declining minimal effective dose and rising maximal response. In early and mid fetus alpha MSH and beta MSH caused a modest glucocorticoid steroidogenic effect. ACTH and alpha MSH stimulated DNA and protein synthesis in the early and mid fetal gland. alpha MSH was more potent than ACTH in these respects, minimal effective dose being generally 10 times less and maximal response 25-200% greater. The effects diminished or disappeared in the late fetal and newborn gland. These data indicate that alpha- and beta MSH possess steroidogenic or growth-promoting properties, or both, for the fetal adrenal gland.
D Rudman, B M Hollins, N C Lewis, R K Chawla