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Immunosuppressive effects of corticotropin and melanotropin and their possible significance in human immunodeficiency virus infection.

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  • Research Article


The activation of human granulocytes and invertebrate immunocytes was found to be suppressed by corticotropin (ACTH) and melanotropin (MSH). In spontaneously active granulocytes both neuropeptides caused significant conformational changes indicative of inactivity plus a reduction in their locomotion. Significant inactivation of human granulocytes by ACTH required 2 hr, that by MSH only 20 min. The addition to the incubation medium of phosphoramidon, a specific inhibitor of neutral endopeptidase 24.11, blocked inactivation of granulocytes by ACTH. Radioimmunoassay for MSH of supernatant fluids from granulocytes incubated with ACTH demonstrated a time-dependent increase in MSH. These data strongly indicate that the effect of ACTH is largely due to its conversion to MSH by granulocyte-associated neutral endopeptidase. Parallel experiments with immunocytes from the mollusc Mytilus edulis gave similar results, indicating the universality of this phenomenon. Our finding that the human immunodeficiency virus, among several viruses, induces ACTH and MSH production in H9 T-lymphoma cells suggests an important role of these neuropeptides in the immunosuppression characteristic of such infections.

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