Pituitary growth hormone (GH) stimulates postnatal growth and metabolism. The role of GH and its receptor (GHR) during prenatal development, however, is still controversial. As shown by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), bovine in vitro fertilization embryos synthesized the transcript of GHR from Day 2 of embryonic life onwards. Real time RT-PCR revealed that synthesis of GHR mRNA was increased 5.9-fold in 6-day-old embryos compared with 2-day-old embryos. Using in situ hybridization, the mRNA encoding GHR was predominantly localized to the inner cell mass of blastocysts. The GHR protein was first visualized 3 days after fertilization. GH-specific transcripts were first detected in embryos on Day 8 of in vitro culture. As shown by transmission electron microscopy, GH treatment resulted in elimination of glycogen storage in 6- to 8-day-old embryos and an increase in exocytosis of lipid vesicles. These results suggest that a functional GHR able to modulate carbohydrate and lipid metabolism is synthesized during preimplantation development of the bovine embryo and that this GHR may be subject to activation by embryonic GH after Day 8.
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