The neuropeptide pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) has been shown to differentially regulate the expression of the gonadotropin subunit genes in cultures of rat pituitary cells. PACAP is expressed within the hypothalamus, and concentrations of PACAP are 2- to 4-fold higher in the portal circulation than in the general circulation. Therefore, PACAP is a candidate regulator of pituitary function. In the present study, we examined the expression of PACAP mRNA within the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) during maturation (Days 20–60) in the male rat and compared this expression to the levels of the gonadotropin subunits, follistatin, and GnRH-receptor mRNAs within the anterior pituitary. Serum concentrations of FSH and LH confirm the established maturational pattern of divergent secretion of LH and FSH. Northern analysis of the gonadotropin subunit mRNAs revealed that FSHβ expression parallels FSH secretion whereas LHβ mRNA concentrations do not change during development. Expression of the GnRH receptor in the pituitary parallels that of FSHβ. In situ hybridization revealed a developmental pattern of PACAP mRNA within the PVN that is reciprocal to that of FSHβ. Competitive reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) analysis of total pituitary follistatin mRNA revealed no significant changes; however, semiquantitative RT-PCR analyses revealed the presence of two follistatin mRNA species, one of which, corresponding to follistatin-288, was developmentally regulated. These studies identified a reciprocal relationship between PVN PACAP and FSHβ gene expression in maturing rats. We propose that PACAP contributes to the selective regulation of FSHβ expression during maturation in the male rat, perhaps via regulation of follistatin.
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