Cell and Tissue Research

, Volume 319, Issue 3, pp 413–421 | Cite as

Colocalization of GH, TSH and prolactin, but not ACTH, with βLH-immunoreactivity: evidence for pluripotential cells in the ovine pituitary

Regular Article


Increasing evidence suggests that multihormonal cells in the pituitary gland may be more commonplace than previously thought. This has forced us to reconsider our classical view of cell populations in the pituitary gland. Studies so far have focused almost exclusively on the rat, and there is a dearth of information on other species. Our first objective was to determine whether a subpopulation of gonadotropes also express somatotropin in the ewe, as reported in the rat. In addition, we sought to determine whether gonadotropes express any of the other known pituitary hormones. Finally, we investigated whether the stage of the estrous cycle influenced the occurrence of these pluripotential gonadotropes. We found that a small population of βLH-immunoreactive cells also expresses immunoreactive GH, prolactin and TSH. No gonadotropes colocalized with ACTH. Significantly (P<0.001) more gonadotropes expressed GH during the luteal (10.7±0.4%) than the late follicular (5.4±0.3%) phase but there was no difference between the luteal and follicular phases in the proportion of gonadotropes expressing prolactin (follicular: 5.7±0.7%; luteal: 5.5±0.6%) or TSH (follicular: 3.1±0.7%; luteal: 4.2±0.5%). Similarly, there was a significant (P<0.05) difference in the proportion of GH-immunoreactive cells expressing βLH immunoreactivity in the luteal (5.9±0.3%) and follicular (3.4±0.5%) phases but no difference in the proportion of prolactin- (follicular: 2.2±0.7%; luteal: 2.0±0.8%) or TSH-immunoreactive cells (follicular: 9.6±3.7%; luteal: 10.8±2.9%) expressing βLH. The specific function of these multihormonal gonadotropes in sheep remains to be determined.


Pituitary Immunocytochemistry Estrous cycle Luteinizing hormone Somatotropin Thyrotropin Adrenocorticotropin Prolactin Sheep 



The polyclonal rabbit anti-βLH antibody and the polyclonal guinea-pig anti-TSH antibody were kindly provided by Dr. A.F. Parlow, NIDDK.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Zoology and PhysiologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

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