Calcitonin (CT) is primarily produced by the thyroid C cells in mammals or by the ultimobranchial gland in chickens. CT is also expressed by the pituitary gland in rats in which it functions as a paracrine factor causing decreased lactotroph proliferation and prolactin (PRL) secretion. Gonadal steroids influence CT expression in the rat pituitary gland. However, the expression of the CT gene in the pituitary gland of chickens or of any other avian species has not previously been reported. We have tested the hypotheses that CT is expressed in the chicken pituitary gland, and that its expression is influenced by sexual maturation or in response to ovarian steroid administration. We have detected robust expression of CT cDNA in the chicken pituitary gland by reverse transcription/polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The sequence of the pituitary-derived CT cDNA is identical to that of the ultimobranchial gland. CT-immunoreactive (ir) cells have been observed throughout the anterior pituitary gland by confocal microscopy. Many of the PRL-ir cells show co-localization with CT-ir cells. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis has revealed an inverse relationship between the quantities of PRL mRNA and CT mRNA in the pituitary gland: sexually mature hens contain lower amounts of CT mRNA but larger quantities of PRL mRNA compared with sexually immature chickens. Estradiol and/or progesterone treatment of sexually immature chickens leads to a significant decrease in the quantity of pituitary CT mRNA relative to that in the vehicle-treated chickens. We conclude that pituitary CT plays an important paracrine/autocrine role in the control of lactotroph function and PRL secretion in the chicken.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Cell Biology