Purpose: Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP), a member of the secretin/glucagons/vasoactive intestinal peptide family, induces the expression of catecholamine-synthesizing enzymes in adrenal medullary cells. In addition, PACAP and its receptor have been detected in human pheochromocytoma tissues, though it is not yet known whether PACAP enhances the expression of genes encoding catecholamine-synthesizing enzymes. To address this question, we analyzed PACAP, PACAP receptor, and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and phenylethanolamine-N-methyltransferase (PNMT) mRNAs in pheochromocytomas.
Methods: The levels of the mRNA for PACAP and vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), and their receptors, and for TH and PNMT were measured by RT-PCR or real-time PCR analysis, and the concentrations of catecholamines were measured by HPLC in 24 intra-adrenal and six extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas.
Results: mRNA expression of PACAP and its receptor VPAC1R were detected in many pheochromocytomas (24/30 and 29/30, respectively), but mRNA expression of the PAC1R and VPAC2R receptor subtypes were detected in only one of six extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas. PACAP mRNA expression correlated with TH (p=0.0018) and PNMT (p=0.05) mRNA expression, as well as epinephrine (p=0.0342) levels in 16 intra-adrenal pheochromocytomas.
Conclusion: Our findings support a possible role for PACAP in the regulation of expression of genes encoding catecholamine-synthesizing enzymes in intra-adrenal pheochromocytomas.