Expression of Vesicular Glutamate Transporter-2 in Gonadotrope and Thyrotrope Cells of the Rat Pituitary. Regulation by Estrogen and Thyroid Hormone Status

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Immunocytochemical studies of the rat adenohypophysis identified a cell population that exhibits immunoreactivity for type-2 vesicular glutamate transporter (VGLUT2), a marker for glutamatergic neuronal phenotype. The in situ hybridization detection of VGLUT2 mRNA expression in adenohypophysial cells verified that VGLUT2 immunoreactivity is due to local synthesis of authentic VGLUT2. Dual-immunofluorescent studies of the hypophyses from male rats showed the presence of VGLUT2 in high percentages of LH (93.3 ± 1.3%)-, FSH (44.7 ± 3.9%)-, and TSH (70.0 ± 5.6%)-immunoreactive cells and its much lower incidence in cells of the prolactin, GH, and ACTH phenotypes. Quantitative in situ hybridization studies have established that the administration of a single dose of 17-β-estradiol (20 μg/kg; sc) to ovariectomized rats significantly elevated VGLUT2 mRNA in the adenohypophysis 16 h postinjection. Thyroid hormone dependence of VGLUT2 expression was addressed by the comparison of hybridization signals in animal models of hypo- and hyperthyroidism to those in euthyroid controls. Although hyperthyroidism had no effect on VGLUT2 mRNA, hypothyroidism increased adenohypophysial VGLUT2 mRNA levels. This coincided with a decreased ratio of VGLUT2-immunoreactive TSH cells, regarded as a sign of enhanced secretion. The presence of the glutamate marker VGLUT2 in gonadotrope and thyrotrope cells, and its up-regulation by estrogen or hypothyroidism, address the possibility that endocrine cells of the adenohypophysis may cosecrete glutamate with peptide hormones in an estrogen- and thyroid status-regulated manner. The exact roles of endogenous glutamate observed primarily in gonadotropes and thyrotropes, including its putative involvement in autocrine/paracrine regulatory mechanisms, will require clarification.

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