The adrenal gland is the second tissue after hypothalamus exhibiting high expression level of Agouti Related Protein (Agrp) mRNA, which suggests that this peptide may control adrenal cell functions. However, its role in this tissue remained to be determined. In this report, we studied the effects of a long-term treatment (24 h) of cultured bovine adrenal cells by Agrp on the (Nle4, d-Phe7)-alphaMSH (NDP-alphaMSH)- or ACTH-induced cortisol release. We showed that Agrp inhibited, in a dose-dependent manner, the 10(-9) M NDP-alphaMSH-induced cortisol production through its antagonistic properties towards MSH at the level of MC4-R. Surprisingly, we found that Agrp in the same conditions of cell treatment also induced a strong inhibition of the ACTH-induced cortisol release. These effects were stronger using low concentrations of Agrp and disappeared for higher concentrations resulting in U-shaped curve data. There was no effect of SHU9119 in the same conditions of stimulation of the cells. Our data confirmed that Agrp is not an antagonist of ACTH at the level of MC2-R and that its sustained effect on ACTH-induced steroidogenesis did not involve its antagonistic properties at the level of MC4-R. The hypothesis would be that Agrp is acting on adrenal steroidogenesis through an alternate mechanism.
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