A novel layer of cells that do not contain both P450aldo and P45011β has been discovered between the zonae glomerulosa and fasciculata of the rat adrenal cortex. Since P450aldo and P45011β are the enzymes responsible for the formation of aldosterone and corticosterone, respectively, the cells in that zone are presumably inert in synthesizing both aldosterone and corticosterone, in other words, the layer is composed of cells that have no zone-specific endocrine function as an adrenocortical component. Cytologically, the layer consists of tightly packed cells, which contain a lesser amount of lipid droplet than the cells in the other zones, and appears as a white ring or a white zone in the double immunostaining with anti P450aldo and and P45011β Upon angiotensin II-stimulation evoked by Na-deficiency, the number of the zona glomerulosa cells expressing P450aldo increases for the initial 2 or 3 days and then the P450aldo-containing zona glomerulosa cells begin to proliferate. Thus angiotensin II serves as a proliferator of the zona glomerulosa cells of the rat adrenal cortex. During the period, the thickness of the white zone decreases for initial 3 days and becomes constant after 5 or 6 days, being about 5 % of the total cell number of the adrenal cortex. When localization of replicating cells was examined in the adrenal cortex, they were found to be concentrated in and around the white zone. Then the pulse-chase experiments with BrdU showed that the labeled cells migrated out of the white zone and into the zonae fasciculata and rencularis. The localization of the replicating cells in the regenerating adrenal cortex was also around the region between the zonae glomerulosa and fasciculata. On the basis of these findings, we suggest that the newly discovered cell layer (the white zone) is the stem cell zone of the rat adrenal cortex.
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