An organ culture method for pituitary glands isolated from immature Japanese eels (Anguilla japonica) was developed. This method could conserve the histological features of the pituitary glands for at least 21 days. The ability to synthesize gonadotropic hormone (GTH) in cultured eel pituitary glands was examined by detecting luteinizing hormone (LH) β protein immunohistochemically. In a basal medium (Leibovitz L-15), LH β-immunoreactive cells were very scarce, but after addition of estradiol-17β (E2) a large number of immunoreactive cells appeared, particularly in the proximal pars distalis. The stimulatory effects of E2 on LH β synthesis were dose (1–100 ng/ml)- and time (1.5–7 days)-dependent. Thus, in contrast with previous reports of the lack of a direct effect of E2 on GTH synthesis in primary cultured eel pituitary cells, the present results clearly indicate that E2 can stimulate GTH synthesis in immature eel pituitary glands. This organ culture method is useful to examine the actions of steroids and also other endocrine factors on the eel pituitary gland.
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