Neonatal thymulin gene therapy in nude mice: Effects on the morphology of the pituitary corticotrope population
Eliana Martines1,2*, Paula C. Reggiani1,3*, José I. Schwerdt1,3, Rodolfo G. Goya1,3 and Gloria Cónsole1,4
1Department of Cytology, Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Medicine, National University of La Plata, 2Adventist University of La Plata (UAP), Entre Ríos, 3INIBIOLP-UNLP and 4CICPBA, Argentina
*These two authors contributed equally to this study.
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Summary. The integrity of the thymus during early life is necessary for a proper maturation of the neuroendocrine system, including the adrenal axis. The thymic metallopeptide thymulin seems to be a central physiologic mediator of thymus-pituitary communication. Furthermore, neonatal thymulin gene therapy has been shown to prevent the typical alterations of gonadotrophic cell number and morphology and serum gonadotropin levels in nude female mice. In the present study we assessed the impact of athymia and the effect of neonatal thymulin gene therapy on the corticotropic cell population in nude mice. The effect of thymulin administration to adult nudes on their hypothalamic content of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and the adrenal content of corticosterone was also determined. We used an adenoviral vector expressing a synthetic gene for the thymic peptide thymulin (metFTS) termed RAd-FTS. On postnatal day 1 or 2, heterozygous (nu/+) and homozygous (nu/nu) pups of both sexes received a single bilateral i.m. injection of RAd-FTS or RAd-GFP, a control vector. On postnatal day 71, mice were bled and sacrificed, and their pituitaries were immediately dissected, fixed and immunostained for corticotropin. Morphometry was performed by means of an image-analysis system. The following parameters were calculated: volume density (VD: Ʃ cell area/reference area), cell density (CD: number of cells/reference area), and cell surface (CS: expressed in µm2). Serum thymulin levels were measured by a bioassay, and CRH as well as corticosterone were determined by IRMA and RIA, respectively. Neonatal thymulin gene therapy in the athymic mice restored their serum thymulin levels and increased corticotrope CD, VD and CS in both control and athymic mice. Athymic mice showed only a marginal reduction in corticotrope CD, VD and CS. In these mutants hypothalamic CRH content was slightly increased, whereas adrenal corticosterone tended to be lower. Thymulin administration to adult mice tended to reverse these changes. Our results suggest a possible modulating effect of thymulin on the corticotrope population and the adrenal gland, confirming the existence of a bidirectional thymus-pituitary-adrenal axis. Histol Histopathol 26, 471-479 (2011)
Key words: Thymus-pituitary axis, Thymulin gene therapy, Nude mice, Hypophysiotropic activity, RAd-FTS