Exposure to bacterial endotoxins has long been known to stimulate the release of anterior pituitary hormones; administration of endotoxin was at one time a common clinical test of anterior pituitary function. Endotoxin is a potent stimulus for production of the endogenous pyrogenic protein, interleukin-1 (IL-1), by macrophages and monocytes. The possibility that IL-1 has a direct effect on the secretion of hormones by rat pituitary cells in a monolayer culture was investigated. Recombinant human IL-1β stimulated the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone, luteinizing hormone, growth hormone, and thyroid-stimulating hormone. Increased hormone secretion into culture supernatants was found with IL-1 concentrations ranging from 10-9M to 10-12M. Prolactin secretion by the monolayers was inhibited by similar doses. These concentrations of IL-1 are within the range reported for IL-1 in serum, suggesting that IL-1 generated peripherally by mononuclear immune cells may act directly on anterior pituitary cells to modulate hormone secretion in vivo. Incubation of IL-1 solutions with antibody to IL-1 neutralized these actions. These pituitary effects of IL-1 suggest that this monokine may be an important regulator of the metabolic adaptations to infectious stressors.
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