Glucocorticoids regulate GH synthesis and secretion by influencing both hypothalamic and pituitary function. With respect to GH-releasing hormone (GHRH), an important GH secretagogue, glucocorticoids are reported not only to suppress hypothalamic GHRH expression but also to augment pituitary responsiveness to GHRH. To investigate further this latter observation, we have determined the effects of this steroid on expression of the GHRH receptor (GHRH-R) gene in the rat pituitary in vivo and in pituitary cells in vitro. Adult male rats were adrenalectomized or sham operated and treated with sc implants of cholesterol or corticosterone. Adrenalectomized animals showed substantially reduced pituitary GHRH-R mRNA levels, when compared with untreated sham-operated animals. Conversely, administration of corticosterone increased pituitary GHRH-R mRNA levels in intact, as well as adrenalectomized rats. We also analyzed the effects of the synthetic glucocorticoid, dexamethasone, on GHRH-R mRNA expression in cultured rat anterior pituitary cells. GHRH-R mRNA was significantly increased by dexamethasone, with a maximal response observed in the presence of 100 nM hormone. This dose of dexamethasone substantially elevated GHRH-R mRNA after 6 h, 12 h, and 24 h of treatment. Dexamethasone did not increase GHRH-R mRNA in the presence of the transcriptional inhibitor actinomycin D, indicating that the predominant effect of the hormone is to increase transcription of the GHRH-R gone. These data demonstrate that GHRH-R mRNA levels are directly stimulated by glucocorticoids, both in the presence and absence of hypothalamic influences, providing a probable explanation for the ability of this steroid to alter pituitary responsiveness to GHRH.
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