Ghrelin receptor expression and colocalization with anterior pituitary hormones using a GHSR-GFP mouse line

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Ghrelin is the endogenous ligand for the GH secretagogue receptor (GHSR) and robustly stimulates GH release from the anterior pituitary gland. Ghrelin also regulates the secretion of anterior pituitary hormones including TSH, LH, prolactin (PRL), and ACTH. However, the relative contribution of a direct action at the GHSR in the anterior pituitary gland vs. an indirect action at the GHSR in the hypothalamus remains undefined. We used a novel GHSR-enhanced green fluorescent protein (eGFP) reporter mouse to quantify GHSR coexpression with GH, TSH, LH, PRL, and ACTH anterior pituitary cells in males vs. females and in chow-fed or calorie-restricted (CR) mice. GHSR-eGFP-expressing cells were only observed in anterior pituitary. The number of GHSR-eGFP-expressing cells was higher in male compared with females, and CR did not affect the GHSR-eGFP cell number. Double staining revealed 77 of somatotrophs expressed GHSR-eGFP in both males and females. Nineteen percent and 12.6 of corticotrophs, 21 and 9 of lactotrophs, 18 and 19 of gonadotrophs, and 3 and 9 of males and females, respectively, expressed GHSR-eGFP. CR increased the number of TSH cells, but suppressed the number of lactotrophs and gonadotrophs, expressing GHSR-eGFP compared with controls. These studies support a robust stimulatory action of ghrelin via the GHSR on GH secretion and identify a previously unknown sexual dimorphism in the GHSR expression in the anterior pituitary. CR affects GHSR-eGFP expression on lactotrophs, gonadotrophs, and thyrotrophs, which may mediate reproductive function and energy metabolism during periods of negative energy balance. The low to moderate expression of GHSR-eGFP suggests that ghrelin plays a minor direct role on remaining anterior pituitary cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5452 - 5466
Number of pages15
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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