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R Kurotani, S Yoshimura, Y Iwasaki, K Inoue, A Teramoto, and RY Osamura

The pituitary-specific POU-homeodomain transcription factor, Pit-1, is known to regulate the expression of the GH gene in somatotropes, prolactin (PRL) in lactotropes, and TSH in thyrotropes. It is not normally expressed in corticotropes or gonadotropes. We addressed the question of whether exogenous Pit-1 was sufficient to induce ectopic transcription of the GH gene in the corticotropic cell line, AtT-20, or the gonadotropic cell line, alpha T3-1. A fusion gene composed of enhanced green fluorescent protein gene and human Pit-1 cDNA was transfected into AtT-20 and alpha T3-1 cells. The endogenous mouse GH mRNA was induced in three of nine AtT-20 cell lines and one of three alpha T3-1 cell lines containing the fusion gene. A small amount of GH protein was also detected in these cell lines. These data indicate that transfected Pit-1 is capable of inducing transcription of the GH gene in AtT-20 cells and alpha T3-1 cells. These data also suggest that synergistic co-factors might be required to transcribe the GH gene effectively for translation into GH protein. Furthermore, our findings support the hypothesis that the function of anterior pituitary cells is determined by the combinatorial action of specific transcription factors.