GH-binding protein (GHBP) in the mouse consists of a ligand-binding domain, which is identical to the extracellular portion of the GH receptor (GHR), and a hydrophilic C-terminal domain, in place of the transmembrane and intracellular domains of the GHR. The two proteins are encoded by separate mRNAs which are derived from a single gene by alternative splicing. Determination of the gestational profiles of GHR and GHBP mRNA expression in mouse liver and placenta shows that in the liver, the 1.4 kb mRNA corresponding to the mouse GHBP increases approximately 20-fold between non-pregnant and late pregnant mice, whereas the relative increase in the expression of the 4.2 kb mouse GHR was 8-fold. The rise in the steady-state levels of both mRNAs began on day 9 of gestation. Mouse GHBP mRNA levels continue to rise until day 15 of pregnancy, while GHR mRNA abundance reaches a plateau by day 13. By elucidating the temporal changes in GHR and GHBP mRNA abundance during pregnancy and lactation in multiple maternal tissues and by assessing the ontogeny of these mRNAs in fetal and early postnatal mouse liver, our studies have demonstrated that the alternative splicing of mouse GHR/GHBP mRNA precursor is regulated in a tissue-, developmental stage- and physiological state-specific manner. In vitro studies using hepatocytes in culture have begun to elucidate the hormonal factor(s) involved in the gestation control of the expression of GHR and GHBP. Treatment of hepatocytes with GH or estradiol (E2) alone did not have any effect on the cellular concentrations of GHBP and GHR. However, the combination of E2 and GH up-regulated the cellular concentrations of GHBP and GHR 2- to 3-fold. GHBP and GHR mRNA concentrations were also up-regulated 2- to 3-fold. ICI 182-780, a competitive inhibitor of E2 for the estrogen receptor (ER), at different concentrations inhibited the E2- and GH-induced stimulation of GHBP and GHR. Furthermore, ER concentrations increased 5- to 7-fold in hepatocytes treated with E2 and GH compared with those in untreated cells or cells treated with either E2 or GH alone. Our studies in the mouse suggest that GHBP is an important cell-surface receptor for GH in the liver. These studies postulate that an arginine-glycine-aspartic acid sequence found on mouse GHBP but absent in other species is responsible for the association of GHBP with the plasma membrane by binding to one or more integrins on the surface of liver cells.
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