OBJECTIVE To identify signs of tissue-specific cortisol activity in samples of suspensory ligament (SL) and neck skin tissue from horses with and without pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID).
SAMPLE Suspensory ligament and neck skin tissue samples obtained from 26 euthanized horses with and without PPID.
PROCEDURES Tissue samples were collected from 12 horses with and 14 horses without PPID (controls). Two control horses had received treatment with dexamethasone; data from those horses were not used in statistical analyses. The other 12 control horses were classified as old horses (≥ 14 years old) and young horses (≤ 9 years old). Standard histologic staining, staining for proteoglycan accumulation, and immunostaining of SL and neck skin tissue sections for glucocorticoid receptors, insulin, 11β hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1, and 11β hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 were performed. Findings for horses with PPID were compared with findings for young and old horses without PPID.
RESULTS Compared with findings for old and young control horses, there were significantly more cells stained for glucocorticoid receptors in SL samples and for 11 β hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 in SL and skin tissue samples from horses with PPID. Insulin could not be detected in any of the SL or skin tissue samples. Horses with PPID had evidence of SL degeneration with significantly increased proteoglycan accumulation. Neck skin tissue was found to be significantly thinner in PPID-affected horses than in young control horses.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Results suggested that tissue-specific dysregulation of cortisol metabolism may contribute to the SL degeneration associated with PPID in horses.