Using Northern blotting with a human genomic DNA probe for the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene, we have shown specific mRNA in normal human peripheral mononuclear cells (PBMC); the presence of specific mRNA was also observed in a T lymphocyte cell line derived from a patient with lymphoma. We then demonstrated that PBMC translate the message into protein. Thus, using a radioimmunoassay with an antibody for ACTH, a median of 29 pg of ACTH-like immunoreactivity (ACTH-LIR) was found in 10(7) PBMC. ACTH-LIR was also detected in seven different cell lines derived from patients with lymphoid and myeloid malignancies, two of them JM and U937 showing the highest values 135 and 108 pg/10(7) cells, respectively. The chromatographic characterization of this ACTH-LIR showed, at least, three molecular forms of immunoreactive ACTH with molecular weights of the order of 31,000 POMC, 22,000 ACTH, and 4,500 ACTH, in addition to high-molecular-weight material (greater than 43,000). We conclude that PBMC produce ACTH-LIR which may act as a paracrine immunomodulator in a similar way to lymphokines and/or may signal the adrenal gland to secrete glucocorticoids.
R Buzzetti, L McLoughlin, P M Lavender, A J Clark, L H Rees