A Pituitary cell type coexpressing messenger ribonucleic acid of proopiomelanocortin and the glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit in neonatal rat and chicken: rapid decline with age and reappearance in vitro under regulatory pressure of corticotropin-releasing hormone in the rat
Promiscuous hormone mRNA expression in the pituitary remains poorly understood. We examined by means of RT-PCR and immunostaining whether glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit (alphaGSU) could be coexpressed with proopiomelanocortin (POMC) in vivo and under pressure of CRH in vitro. Cells coexpressing alphaGSU and POMC mRNA amounted to 2.6% of the cells in ex vivo rat pituitary at birth [postnatal d 1 (P1)], fell to much lower level at P14, and were undetectable in adulthood. In cultured pituitary aggregates of P14 rats, alphaGSU/POMC cells remained scarce but represented up to 6.6% after chronic treatment with CRH but not leukemia inhibitory factor. CRH was less effective in aggregates from P1 and adult rats. The total alphaGSU population ex vivo at P1 was two times smaller than at P14, but in culture it expanded 2.5 times, concomitantly with a reciprocal change in POMC cell abundance. Tpit transcripts were detected in POMC-only and alphaGSU/POMC cells but not in alphaGSU-only cells. Cells coexpressing alphaGSU and POMC mRNA were relatively abundant in P14 chicken pituitary and aggregate cultures, but occurrence was not affected by CRH. Immunostaining showed alphaGSU and POMC colocalization in sporadic cells in intact rat pituitary and CRH-treated cultures at P1 but not at P14 and adult age. The data demonstrate the occurrence of cells coexpressing alphaGSU and POMC in rat and chicken pituitary. The developmental dynamics of this cell population and its response to CRH in vitro in the rat suggest a relationship of these cells with the embryonic branching of the POMC and alphaGSU cell lineages and their mutually opposite developmental course during early postnatal life.