Indexed on: 12 May '05Published on: 12 May '05Published in: Domestic Animal Endocrinology
Anterior pituitary somatotroph differentiation occurs during chick embryonic and rat fetal development. A number of findings support the hypothesis that differentiation of these growth hormone (GH) producing cells in the chick and the rat is regulated by adrenal glucocorticoids and thyroid hormones. Somatotroph differentiation can be induced in cultures of chick embryonic and rat fetal pituitary cells with adrenal glucocorticoids and this effect can be modulated by concomitant treatment with thyroid hormones. Plasma levels of thyroid hormones, corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone increase during development, consistent with the ontogeny of somatotrophs. Treatment of chick embryos or rat fetuses with glucocorticoids in vivo induces premature somatotroph differentiation, indicating that the adrenal gland, and ultimately anterior pituitary corticotrophs, may function to regulate pituitary GH cell differentiation during development. Administration of thyroid hormones in vivo also increases somatotrophs prematurely, and administration of the thyroid hormone synthesis inhibitor methimazole inhibits somatotroph differentiation in vivo, suggesting that endogenous thyroid hormone synthesis contributes to normal somatotroph differentiation. Our working model for the regulation of somatotroph differentiation during normal development includes modulation by elements of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal and hypothalamo-pituitary-thyroid axes. Additional research is reviewed defining the mechanism of action for these peripheral hormones in induction of pituitary GH gene expression during development.