Endotoxin-free thymosin fraction 5 elevated corticotropin, β-endorphin, and cortisol in a dose- and time-dependent fashion when administered intravenously to prepubertal cynomolgus monkeys. Two synthetic component peptides of thymosin fraction 5 had no acute effects on pituitary function, suggesting that some other peptides in thymosin fraction 5 were responsible for its corticotropin-releasing activity. In agreement with these observations, total thymectomy of juvenile macaques was associated with decreases in plasma cortisol, corticotropin, and β-endorphin. These findings indicate that the prepubertal primate thymus contains corticotropin-releasing activity that may contribute to a physiological immunoregulatory circuit between the developing immunological and pituitary-adrenal systems.
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