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Profound somatotroph hypoplasia in the dwarf (dw/dw) rat is accompanied by an estrogen-dependent induction of prolactin secretion by the GH secretagogue, GHRP-6. Using electron microscopy, we demonstrated that the reduction in the somatotroph population in the dw/dw pituitary is accompanied by the presence of a morphologically distinct lactotroph subpopulation. In these cells, which did not coexpress GH, the size, shape, and number of the secretory granules were between those of the type I and type II lactotrophs. We therefore called these cells intermediate lactotrophs. The intermediate lactotrophs accounted for up to 30% of the total prolactin-positive cell population in dw/dw males and up to 12% in females. Using tannic acid to quantify the fusion of secretory granules, we have shown that the intermediate lactotrophs are unresponsive to either GH-releasing factor (GRF) or TRH but exhibit a sexually dimorphic secretory response to acute ghrelin treatment, granular fusions being 4-fold higher in females. No cell matching the morphology of the novel lactotroph subpopulation was observed in the pituitary of the GRF-insensitive lit/lit mouse. However, ablation of GRF neurons with neonatal monosodium glutamate treatment had no effect on the population of intermediate lactotrophs in the dw/dw rat. Thus, the presence of the intermediate lactotrophs in the dw/dw pituitary appears to be independent of the function of the GRF neurons.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





5012 - 5023


Aging, Animals, Dwarfism, Female, Ghrelin, Growth Hormone, Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Microscopy, Electron, Neurosecretory Systems, Peptide Hormones, Pituitary Gland, Anterior, Pregnancy, Prolactin, Rats, Rats, Mutant Strains