The aim of this study was to investigate the ontogeny of localization of 11βHSD-2 protein in the human adrenal gland. In addition, we have investigated the effects of abnormal adrenal function on 11βHSD-2 by determining the pattern of localization of 11βHSD-2 protein, and the amount and level of expression of 11βHSD-2 mRNA and protein in human adrenal cortical carcinoma and adenoma. In the human foetal adrenal gland 11βHSD-2 immunoreactivity (11βHSD-2-ir) was detected in the foetal zone, whereas in normal adult adrenal glands 11βHSD-2-ir was not detected by immunocytochemistry. In adrenal cortical carcinoma and adenoma, 11βHSD-2-ir was detectable in specific regions, which have been identified as steroid synthesizing cells using 3βHSD-ir as a marker. In adrenal cortical carcinoma and adenoma, 11βHSD-2 mRNA and 11βHSD-2 protein were detected by nuclease protection analysis and by western blot analysis, respectively. In summary, 11βHSD-2-ir was detected in the foetal zone of the mid-gestation human foetal adrenal, whereas, 11βHSD-2-ir was not detectable in the postnatal or normal adult adrenal gland. 11βHSD-2 protein and mRNA was induced in adult human adrenal cortical carcinoma and adenoma. The induction of expression of 11βHSD-2 in the adrenal cortex suggests a possible role in regulating abnormal adrenal steroidogenic function in these patients. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd.
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