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There are well-recognized sex differences in many pituitary endocrine axes, usually thought to be generated by gonadal steroid imprinting of the neuroendocrine hypothalamus. However, the recognition that growth hormone (GH) cells are arranged in functionally organized networks raises the possibility that the responses of the network are different in males and females. We studied this by directly monitoring the calcium responses to an identical GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) stimulus in populations of individual GH cells in slices taken from male and female murine GH-eGFP pituitary glands. We found that the GH cell network responses are sexually dimorphic, with a higher proportion of responding cells in males than in females, correlated with greater GH release from male slices. Repetitive waves of calcium spiking activity were triggered by GHRH in some males, but were never observed in females. This was not due to a permanent difference in the network architecture between male and female mice; rather, the sex difference in the proportions of GH cells responding to GHRH were switched by postpubertal gonadectomy and reversed with hormone replacements, suggesting that the network responses are dynamically regulated in adulthood by gonadal steroids. Thus, the pituitary gland contributes to the sexually dimorphic patterns of GH secretion that play an important role in differences in growth and metabolism between the sexes.

Original publication

DOI

10.1073/pnas.1010849107

Type

Journal article

Journal

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date

2010

Volume

107

Pages

21878 - 21883

Keywords

Animals Calcium/metabolism Calcium Signaling/physiology Female Gonadal Steroid Hormones/*metabolism Growth Hormone/*metabolism Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone/metabolism Male Mice Mice, Transgenic *Sex Characteristics