In order to study GH cell differentiation, we used the clonal cell lines called MtT/E and MtT/S cells, which were derived from a rat mammotrophic pituitary tumor. Although MtT/E cells are non-hormone-producing ones, Pit-1 protein is present in their nuclei, which suggests that MtT/E cells are progenitor cells of the Pit-1 cell lineage and have the potential to differentiate into hormone-producing cells. On the other hand, MtT/S cells produce GH; however, the responsiveness to GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) is weak and only a small number of secretory granules are present in their cytoplasm, which suggests that MtT/S cells are premature GH cells. In order to differentiate into GH cells from MtT/E cells as a progenitor cell, we examined several differentiation factors and found that retinoic acid (RA) induced the differentiation of MtT/E cells into GH-producing cells. RA-induced GH cells partially matured with the glucocorticoid treatment; however, the responsiveness to GHRH on GH secretion was incomplete. In order to elucidate the mechanism underlying full differentiation of GH cells, we used MtT/S cells. We treated MtT/S cells with glucocorticoid and found that they differentiated into mature GH cells with many secretory granules in their cytoplasm and they responded well to GHRH. These results suggested that MtT/E and MtT/S cells are progenitor or premature GH cells, and show different responses to differentiation factors. Our data also suggested that GH cells differentiate from their progenitor cells through multistep processes.
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