Ovarian steroids control a variety of physiological functions. They exert actions through classical nuclear steroid receptors, but rapid non-genomic actions through specific membrane steroid receptors have been also described. In this study, we demonstrate that the G-protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER) is expressed in the rat pituitary gland and, at a high level, in the lactotroph population. Our results revealed that ~40% of the anterior pituitary cells are GPER positive and ~35% of the lactotrophs are GPER positive. By immunocytochemical and immuno-electron-microscopy studies, we demonstrated that GPER is localized in the plasmatic membrane but is also associated to the endoplasmic reticulum in rat lactotrophs. Moreover, we found that local Gper expression is regulated negatively by 17β-estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4) and fluctuates during the estrus cycle, being minimal in proestrus. Interestingly, lack of ovarian steroids after an ovariectomy (OVX) significantly increased pituitary GPER expression specifically in the three morphologically different subtypes of lactotrophs. We found a rapid estradiol stimulatory effect on PRL secretion mediated by GPER, both in vitro and ex vivo, using a GPER agonist G1, and this effect was prevented by the GPER antagonist G36, demonstrating a novel role for this receptor. Then, the increased pituitary GPER expression after OVX could lead to alterations in the pituitary function as all three lactotroph subtypes are target of GPER ligand and could be involved in the PRL secretion mediated by GPER. Therefore, it should be taken into consideration in the response of the gland to an eventual hormone replacement therapy.
María Andrea Camilletti, Alejandra Abeledo-Machado, Jimena Ferraris, Pablo A Pérez, Erika Y Faraoni, Daniel Pisera, Silvina Gutierrez and Graciela Díaz-Torga
Erika Y Faraoni, María Andrea Camilletti, Alejandra Abeledo-Machado, Laura D Ratner, Fernanda De Fino, Ilpo Huhtaniemi, Susana B Rulli and Graciela Díaz-Torga
Female transgenic mice that overexpress the human chorionic gonadotrophin β subunit (hCGβ+) develop prolactinomas, whereas hCGβ+ males do not. The high levels of circulating hCG induce massive luteinization in the ovary of hCGβ+ females, and progesterone becomes the primary steroid hormone produced, but estradiol remains at physiological level. The involvement of high levels of progesterone in lactotroph proliferation is not clearly understood; hence, the pathogenesis of prolactinomas in hCGβ+ females remains unclear. TGFβ1 is an inhibitor of lactotroph function, and the reduced TGFβ1 activity found in prolactinomas has been proposed to be involved in tumor development. The aim of the present work was to study the role of TGFβ1 in the gender-specific development of prolactinomas in hCGβ+ mice. We compared the expression of different components of the pituitary TGFβ1 system in males and females in this model. We found reduced TGFβ1 levels, reduced expression of TGFβ1 target genes, TGFβ1 receptors, Ltbp1, Smad4 and Smad7 in hCGβ+ female pituitaries. However, no differences were found between the transgenic and wild-type male pituitaries. We postulate that decreased pituitary TGFβ1 activity in hCGβ+ females is involved in the development of prolactinomas. In fact, we demonstrated that an in vivo treatment carried out for increasing pituitary TGFβ1 activity, was successful in reducing the prolactinoma development, and the hyperprolactinemia in hCGβ+ females. Moreover, the stronger TGFβ1 system found in males could protect them from excessive lactotroph proliferation. Sex differences in the regulation of the pituitary TGFβ1 system could explain gender differences in the incidence of prolactinoma.