A correlative study of the ultrastructural and biochemical effects of ACTH on fasciculata cells was carried out on the isolated cat adrenal gland perfused in situ with Locke's solution. The outstanding morphologic feature of cortical cells exposed to microunit ACTH concentrations for 40 min was the abundance of electron-dense granules (0.2-0.4 mum). These organelles were observed in small groups in close proximity to the Golgi region and to the cell membrane. Morphometric and biochemical analysis of control and ACTH-treated glands demonstrated that ACTH stimulation was associated with a fourfold increase in the number of these granules and a comparable increase in the corticosteroid content of the gland. By contrast, ACTH failed to augment cortical lysosomal enzyme activity. These findings, which link steroid release to the appearance of intracellular granules, extend further the parallels between the mechanism of release of newly synthesized steroid and the release of preformed hormones stored in secretory organelles. These results also lend support to the concept that a process related to exocytosis may be the underlying mechanism for extruding steroid from the cortical cell.

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