ACTH modulation of nerve development and regeneration

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Adrenocorticotropic Hormone; Amino Acid Sequence; Animals; Central Nervous System; Humans; Melanocyte-Stimulating Hormones; Molecular Sequence Data; Nerve Regeneration; Nervous System; Nervous System Diseases; Nervous System Physiological Phenomena; Neuromuscular Junction; Peripheral Nerves




The availability of short amino acid sequences of the naturally occurring ACTH 1-39 molecule has made it possible to separate the corticotropic characteristics of the parent molecule from its neurotrophic effects. Potent neurotrophic fragments are ACTH 4-10, an analog of ACTH 4-9 (Org 2766), and alpha-MSH (ACTH 1-13), peptide fragments that do not evoke corticosteroid secretion, yet clearly affect both the development and regeneration of peripheral nerve. (2) Early postnatal administration of either ACTH 4-10 or Org 2766 accelerates the neuromuscular development of the immature rat, increasing the contractile strength of the EDL muscle and inducing more rapid muscle contractions. Grasping strength and motor activity are increased; these are all changes indicative of more rapid neuromuscular maturation. Prenatal peptide treatment elicits a more complex pattern of response since administration early in gestation (GD 3-12) accelerates neuromuscular development whereas later administration (GD 13-21) decelerates maturation. (3) ACTH peptides have a similar accelerating effect on the morphology of the developing neuromuscular junction. At two weeks of age, nerve arborization is conspicuously increased by postnatal administration of either ACTH 4-10 or Org 2766, as is nerve terminal branching within the endplate itself. However, this is preceded by an initial depression of nerve branching in the 7-day-old rat pup. We conclude that while the developing neuromuscular system is sensitive to ACTH peptides, this susceptibility is age-related. The crucial role of these peptides may be limited to very brief, defined periods during which the peptides may interact with trophic or growth-associated substances, each of which may have its own decisive, circumscribed time frame of influence. (4) Perinatal administration of ACTH peptides affects CNS development. One measurable indication of this is an acceleration of eye opening. Early exposure to ACTH peptides has long-lasting effects on behavior, apparent when these animals are tested as adults. Increased spontaneous motor activity, heightened states of arousal and agitation, and changes in social behavior have been reported. Certain avoidance responses and tests of visual discrimination in male rats are improved by neonatal treatment with alpha-MSH. Overall motor activity is increased and the normal period of hyperactivity is initiated earlier. Male sexual behavior is decreased and sexually dimorphic behaviors in males are eliminated. alpha-MSH may alter the development of its own dopaminergic feedback circuitry while ACTH affects serotonin levels in the preoptic nucleus.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Rights and Permissions

Citation: Prog Neurobiol. 1989;33(1):45-85.

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID