Identification of the blood-borne somatotroph-differentiating factor during chicken embryonic development Academic Article uri icon


  • Somatotrophs become a significant population by day 16 of chicken embryonic development. We have previously demonstrated that an earlier induction of GH cell differentiation is possible with the addition of day 16 embryonic serum to cultures of day 12 pituitary cells, an age when somatotrophs are rare. The present study was designed to identify the blood- borne signal(s) responsible for the serum activity, using reverse hemolytic plaque assays to identify individual GH-secreting cells. The activity was found to be a heat-stable, ether-soluble compound(s) that is bound or inhibited by a trypsin-sensitive protein. The extent of GH cell differentiation was greater (P < 0.05; n = 3) in response to the ether phases of heated day 16 (14.1 0.4% of all cells) and day 12 sera (9.3 0.4%) than with untreated serum from days 16 and 12 (6.1 0.4% and 0.82 0.4%, respectively). Furthermore, ether-extracted day 16 serum was more effective than ether-extracted day 12 serum, which was also different from basal (0.85 0.4%; P < 0.05). Based on this biochemical profile, the abilities of various steroids to stimulate differentiation were tested. Three steroids were found to stimulate somatotroph differentiation in vitro: 17- estradiol, corticosterone, and progesterone. However, the estradiol receptor antagonist, tamoxifen, while abolishing the effect of estradiol, had no effect on the induction of differentiation by day 16 serum. In contrast, RU486, a specific glucocorticoid receptor antagonist in chickens, blocked the stimulatory effects of corticosterone, progesterone, and day 16 serum on somatotroph differentiation. We next tested whether the active compound in day 16 embryonic serum was corticosterone, the predominant glucocorticoid in chickens. Incubation of day 16 serum with corticosterone antiserum, but not control antiserum, suppressed day 16 serum-induced GH cell differentiation. Therefore, we conclude that corticosterone is the blood-borne signal capable of stimulating somatotroph differentiation in vitro. The present findings together with previous reports indicate that somatotroph differentiation during embryonic development may result from an increase in circulating glucocorticoid concentrations.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Morpurgo, B., Dean, C. E., & Porter, T. E.

citation count

  • 25

complete list of authors

  • Morpurgo, B||Dean, CE||Porter, TE

publication date

  • January 1997