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NO Vidal, S Ekberg, S Enerback, A Lindahl and C Ohlsson

The transcription factor C/EBP alpha, a member of the CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein family, is highly expressed in the liver and in adipose tissue. The aim of this study was to determine if C/EBP alpha is expressed in rat growth cartilage. The expression pattern of C/EBP alpha in monolayer-cultured growth plate chondrocytes was similar to that of C/EBP alpha during hepatocyte and preadipocyte differentiation. Immunohistochemistry with a polyclonal antibody for C/EBP alpha revealed that the C/EBP alpha protein is present in the perichondrial ring, in the germinal layer of the growth plate and on the surface of the articular cartilage. The growth hormone (GH) receptor has a similar distribution in the rat tibial growth plate, and hypophysectomised rats were used to investigate a possible connection between C/EBP alpha and GH. C/EBP alpha mRNA levels were decreased in rib cartilage after hypophysectomy. However, GH treatment did not counteract this effect, indicating that other pituitary hormones regulate the C/EBP alpha mRNA levels in growth plate cartilage. We thus demonstrate, for the first time, that C/EBP alpha is expressed in cartilage. The finding that C/EBP alpha, like the GH receptor, is predominantly expressed in stem cell areas of the rat growth plate indicates a possible functional role for C/EBP alpha during early chondrogenic differentiation.

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S Vidal, A Roman, L Moya and K Kovacs

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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YS Huang, K Rousseau, N Le Belle, B Vidal, E Burzawa-Gerard, J Marchelidon and S Dufour

Insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-I has been suggested as a potential signal linking growth and puberty in mammals. Using the juvenile European eel as a model, we employed a long-term, serum-free primary culture of pituitary cells to study the direct effect of IGF-I on gonadotrophin (GtH-II=LH) production. IGF-I increased both cell content and release of GtH-II in a time- and dose-dependent manner. IGF-I and IGF-II had similar potencies but insulin was 100-fold less effective, suggesting the implication of an IGF type 1 receptor. Other growth and metabolic factors, such as basic fibroblast growth factor and thyroid hormones, had no effect on GtH-II production. IGF-I did not significantly increase the number of GtH-II immunoreactive cells, indicating that its stimulatory effect on GtH-II production does not result from gonadotroph proliferation. Comparison of IGF-I and somatostatin (SRIH-14) effects showed that both factors inhibited growth hormone (GH) release but only IGF-I stimulated GtH-II production by eel pituitary cells. This indicates that the effect of IGF-I on gonadotrophs is not mediated by the reduction of GH released by somatotrophs into the culture medium. This study demonstrates a specific stimulatory effect of IGF-I on eel GtH-II production, played out directly at the pituitary level. These data obtained in a primitive teleost suggest that the role of IGF-I as a link between body growth and puberty may have been established early in the evolution of vertebrates.

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MK Lindberg, Z Weihua, N Andersson, S Moverare, H Gao, O Vidal, M Erlandsson, S Windahl, G Andersson, DB Lubahn, H Carlsten, K Dahlman-Wright, JA Gustafsson and C Ohlsson

Estrogen exerts a variety of important physiological effects, which have been suggested to be mediated via the two known estrogen receptors (ERs), alpha and beta. Three-month-old ovariectomized mice, lacking one or both of the two estrogen receptors, were given estrogen subcutaneously (2.3 micro g/mouse per day) and the effects on different estrogen-responsive parameters, including skeletal effects, were studied. We found that estrogen increased the cortical bone dimensions in both wild-type (WT) and double ER knockout (DERKO) mice. DNA microarray analysis was performed to characterize this effect on cortical bone and it identified four genes that were regulated by estrogen in both WT and DERKO mice. The effect of estrogen on cortical bone in DERKO mice might either be due to remaining ERalpha activity or represent an ERalpha/ERbeta-independent effect. Other effects of estrogen, such as increased trabecular bone mineral density, thymic atrophy, fat reduction and increased uterine weight, were mainly ERalpha mediated.