3 beta-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase/isomerase (3 beta-HSD) catalyses an essential step in the biosynthesis of steroid hormones and is widely distributed in peripheral steroid target organs. The present report describes for first time the expression of this enzyme in the pituitary of female rats. Immunohistochemistry at the light microscopic level was performed on pro-oestrous and ovariectomized rat pituitaries. Immunoreactive cells were scattered and randomly distributed throughout the anterior lobe, whereas cells located in the posterior lobe and pars intermedia were immunonegative. Differences were observed in cell morphology and in the number of 3 beta-HSD-immunopositive cells between ovariectomized and pro-oestrous female rat pituitaries, suggesting that steroidogenic activity is affected by ovarian endocrine function. Apart from adenohypophyseal immunoreactive cells, 3 beta-HSD immunopositivity was also noted in endothelial cells of almost all pituitary capillaries located in the anterior and posterior lobes.
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