The occurrence of intermediates from the processing of ACTH-(1-39) [adrenocorticotropic hormone-(1-39)] to alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone was investigated in normal pig pituitaries by the use of sensitive and specific radioimmunoassays for ACTH-(1-13), ACTH-(1-14), ACTH-(1-13)-NH2 and ACTH-(1-39). Fractionation by reverse-phase h.p.l.c. revealed ACTH(1-17) and their acetylated analogues. The intermediate lobe contained NO-diacetyl-ACTH-(1-13)-NH2, N-acetyl-ACTH-(1-13)-NH2 and ACTH-(1-13)-NH2. In addition, the corresponding ACTH-(1-14) peptides (the glycine-extended precursor of the amidated peptides) were detected in lower amounts in both the intermediate lobe and the anterior lobe. ACTH-(1-17), ACTH-(1-13) and their acetylated analogues could not be detected in the anterior lobe or the intermediate lobe. The results suggest that an endopeptidase initially cleaves ACTH-(1-39) at the Lys-16-Arg-17 bond. ACTH-(1-16) is then processed by a pituitary carboxypeptidase to ACTH-(1-14) and ACTH-(17-39) by the aminopeptidase to ACTH-(18-39).

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