Developmental changes in the hormonal identity of gonadotroph cells in the rhesus monkey pituitary gland

Dawud Meeran, Henryk F. Urbanski, Susan J. Gregory, Julie Townsend, Domingo J. Tortonese

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


To help elucidate the regulatory mechanism responsible for divergent gonadotrophin secretion during sexual maturation, we examined the gonadotroph population and hormonal identity of gonadotroph subtypes in pituitary glands of juvenile (age, 1.7 ± 0.2 yr) and adult (age, 12.3 ± 0.8 yr) male rhesus monkeys (Macacca mulatta). Serum LH and testosterone concentrations were, respectively, 3 and 7 times lower in juveniles than in adults, thus confirming the different stages of development. Immunohistochemistry revealed that the proportion of LH gonadotrophs in relation to the total pituitary cell population in the juvenile animals was significantly smaller than in the adults. In a subsequent study, double immunofluorescent labeling identified three distinct gonadotroph subtypes in both age groups: ones expressing either LH or FSH and another one expressing a combination of both gonadotrophins. Whereas the number of monohormonal LH cells per unit area was greater in the adults than in the juveniles, the number of monohormonal FSH gonadotrophs was remarkably lower. However, the proportion of FSH cells (whether mono- or bihormonal) within the gonadotroph population was similar between groups. Interestingly, the proportion and number of bihormonal gonadotrophs as well as the LH/FSH gonadotroph ratio were significantly greater in the adults than in the juveniles. Taken together, these data reveal that during the juvenile-adult transition period, not only does the pituitary gonadotroph population increase, but a large number of monohormonal FSH gonadotrophs are likely to become bihormonal. Because this morphological switch occurs when marked changes in plasma gonadotrophins are known to occur, it may represent an intrapituitary mechanism that differentially regulates gonadotrophin secretion during sexual development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2934-2942
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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