TGFβ1 regulates prolactin secretion during postnatal development: gender differences

in Journal of Endocrinology

Correspondence should be addressed to G Díaz-Torga: gdiaz@ibyme.conicet.gov.ar
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Serum prolactin levels gradually increase from birth to puberty in both male and female rats, with higher levels observed in female since the first days of life. The increase in lactotroph secretion was attributed to the maturation of prolactin-inhibiting and prolactin-releasing factors; however, those mechanisms could not fully explain the gender differences observed. Prolactin secretion from isolated lactotrophs, in the absence of hypothalamic control, also increases during the first weeks of life, suggesting the involvement of intra-pituitary factors. We postulate that pituitary transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGFβ1) is involved in the regulation of prolactin secretion as well as in the gender differences observed at early postnatal age. Several components of the local TGFβ1 system were evaluated during postnatal development (11, 23, and 45 days) in female and male Sprague–Dawley rats. In vivo assays were performed to study local TGFβ1 activation and its impact on prolactin secretion. At day 11, female pituitaries present high levels of active TGFβ1, concomitant with the highest expression of TGFβ1 target genes and the phospho-Smad3 immunostaining in lactotrophs. The steady increase in prolactin secretion inversely correlates with active TGFβ1 levels only in females. Dopamine and estradiol induce TGFβ1 activation at day 11, in both genders, but its activation induces the inhibition of prolactin secretion only in females. Our findings demonstrate that: (1) TGFβ1 activation is regulated by dopamine and estradiol; (2) the inhibitory regulation of local TGFβ1 on prolactin secretion is gender specific; and (3) this mechanism is responsible, at least partially, for the gender differences observed being relevant during postnatal development.

 

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