Journal of neuroendocrinology. vol:14 issue:8 pages:611-9
The expression of mRNA of growth hormone (GH), prolactin (PRL), pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) and the common glycoprotein hormone alpha-subunit (alphaGSU) was studied by means of single cell reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction in male mouse pituitary cells at key time points of fetal and postnatal development: embryonic day 16 (E16); postnatal day 1 (P1) and young-adult age (P38). At E16, the hormone mRNAs examined were detectable, although only in 44% of total cells. Most of the hormone-positive cells expressed only one of the tested hormone mRNAs (monohormonal) but 14% of them contained more than one hormone mRNA (plurihormonal cells). Combinations of GH mRNA with PRL mRNA, of alphaGSU mRNA with GH and/or PRL mRNA and of POMC mRNA with GH and/or PRL mRNA or alphaGSU mRNA were found. As expected, the proportion of hormone-positive cells rose as the mouse aged. The proportions of plurihormonal cells followed a developmental pattern independent of that of monohormonal cells and characteristic for each hormone mRNA examined. Cells coexpressing POMC mRNA with GH or PRL mRNA significantly rose in proportion between E16 and P1, while the proportion of cells coexpressing GH and PRL mRNA markedly increased between P1 and P38. The occurrence of cells displaying combined expression of alphaGSU mRNA with GH and/or PRL mRNA did not significantly change during development. Remarkably, the population of cells expressing PRL mRNA only, was larger at E16 than at P1 and expanded again thereafter. In conclusion, the normal mouse pituitary develops a cell population that is capable of expressing multiple hormone mRNAs, thereby combining typical phenotypes of different cell lineages. These plurihormonal cells are already present during embryonic life. This population is of potential physiological relevance because development-related factors appear to determine which hormone mRNAs are preferentially coexpressed. Coexpression of multiple hormone mRNAs may represent a mechanism to respond to temporally increased endocrine demands. The data also suggest that the control of combined hormone expression is different from that of single hormone expression, raising questions about the current view on pituitary cell lineage specifications.