Indexed on: 01 Nov '95Published on: 01 Nov '95Published in: Endocrinology
Although it is known that concentrations of immunoreactive ACTH increase during late gestation in fetal sheep plasma, the nature of the ACTH has not been well characterized. We used two-site immunoradiometric assays to separately measure high mol wt ACTH precursors (POMC and pro-ACTH) and ACTH-(1-39) in plasma of fetal sheep with chronic arterial and venous catheters. We compared the ratio of these peptides as a function of gestational age under basal conditions and in response to exogenous vasopressin and/or corticotropin-releasing hormone. Under basal conditions, the concentration of precursors was not changed throughout the last third of gestation; however, ACTH-(1-39) increased significantly approaching term. The molar ratio of precursors to ACTH-(1-39), therefore, decreased from 15.8 +/- 1.0 at 110 days to 7.9 +/- 0.6 at 140 days gestation. At all gestational ages, vasopressin and corticotropin-releasing hormone increased ACTH-(1-39) and precursors, albeit with different time courses. At 120 days gestation, arginine vasopressin plus CRH produced synergistic increases in ACTH-(1-39) and precursors, whereas the response was only additive at other ages. The present results indicate that the elevation in the resting plasma immunoreactive ACTH concentration that occurs near term is constituted by an increase in the concentration of ACTH-(1-39) relative to those of POMC and pro-ACTH, which may have further physiological significance. Also, CRH and AVP are potent stimulators of both ACTH-(1-39) and ACTH precursors.