Evidence that somatotroph differentiation during chicken embryonic development is stimulated by a blood-borne signal. Academic Article uri icon


  • We reported previously that GH-secreting cells differentiate by day 16 of chicken embryonic development. In the present study, primary cultures of anterior pituitary cells from 10-, 12-, 14-, and 16-day-old chicken embryos were incubated for 2 or 6 days in serum-free medium or medium supplemented with serum from day 12 or day 16 embryos (1% serum by volume). After this culture period, the pituitary cells were recovered and subjected to reverse hemolytic plaque assays for chicken GH. GH-secreting cells did not differentiate spontaneously in serum-free cultures derived from any of the embryonic ages tested, indicating that differentiation of somatotrophs does not occur based only on the relative age of the presumptive GH cell. However, we found that treatment for as little as 2 days with serum from day 16 (but not day 12) embryos stimulated somatotroph differentiation in cultures derived from day 12, 14, and 16 embryos. These results indicate that an activity capable of stimulating GH cell differentiation in vitro is present in day 16 embryonic serum and that the presumptive GH cells were responsive to the somatotroph-differentiating effects of day 16 embryonic serum as early as day 12 of development. Next, serum from day 12, 14, and 16 embryos was evaluated over a 25-fold-range in concentration (0.2-5.0% by volume) using pituitary cells from day 12 embryos as an in vitro bioassay. Treatment with day 12 serum at any of the concentrations tested had no significant effect (P > 0.05), relative to that in serum-free cultures, in which 0.8 +/- 0.4% of all pituitary cells released GH. In contrast, treatment with day 14 and day 16 serum increased the percentage of cells that released GH to 8.0 +/- 1.3% and 12.0 +/- 0.8%, respectively (1% serum by volume). Thus, the level of somatotroph-differentiating activity in embryonic serum was undetectable in day 12 embryos, intermediate in day 14 embryos, and increased to high levels by day 16 of development concomitant with the appearance of GH-secreting cells in vivo reported previously. Next, the specificity of this response to day 16 serum was tested further by treating day 12 cells with peptides known to stimulate GH release in adult animals, GH-releasing hormone and TRH, and a GH-releasing hormone-related peptide (vasoactive intestinal peptide). None of these peptides was found to stimulate somatotroph differentiation at the doses tested (10-9 and 10-7 M).(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

published proceedings

  • Endocrinology

author list (cited authors)

  • Porter, T. E., Couger, G. S., & Morpurgo, B

citation count

  • 33

complete list of authors

  • Porter, TE||Couger, GS||Morpurgo, B

publication date

  • September 1995