Repeated stimulation of pituitary cell cultures with GH-releasing hormone (GHRH) results in diminished responsiveness, a phenomenon referred to as homologous desensitization. One component of GHRH-induced desensitization is a reduction in GHRH-binding sites, which is reflected by the decreased ability of GHRH to stimulate a rise in intracellular cAMP. In the present study, we sought to determine if homologous down-regulation of GHRH receptor number is due to a decrease in GHRH receptor synthesis. To this end, we developed and validated a quantitative RT-PCR assay system that was capable of assessing differences in GHRH-R messenger RNA (mRNA) levels in total RNA samples obtained from rat pituitary cell cultures. Treatment of pituitary cells with GHRH, for as little as 4 h, resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in GHRH-R mRNA levels. The maximum effect was observed with 0.1 and 1 nM GHRH, which reduced GHRH-R mRNA levels to 49 ± 4% (mean ± SEM) and 54 ± 11% of control values, respectively (n three separate experiments; P < 0.05). Accompanying the decline in GHRH-R mRNA levels was a rise in GH release, reaching 320 ± 31% of control values (P < 0.01). Because of the possibility that the rise in medium GH level is the primary regulator of GHRH-R mRNA, we pretreated pituitary cultures for 4 h with GH to achieve a concentration comparable with that induced by a maximal stimulation with GHRH (8 μg GH/ml medium). Following pre-treatment, cultures were stimulated for 15 min with GHRH and intracellular cAMP accumulation was measured by RIA. GH pre- treatment did not impair the ability of GHRH to induce a rise in cAMP concentrations. However, as anticipated, GHRH pretreatment (10 nM) significantly reduced subsequent GHRH-stimulated cAMP to 46% of untreated controls. These data suggest that GHRH, but not GH, directly reduces GHRH-R mRNA levels. To determine whether this effect was mediated through cAMP, cultures were treated with forskolin, a direct stimulator of adenylate cyclase. Forskolin (10 μM) significantly reduced GHRH-R mRNA concentrations (37 ± 6% of control values) indicating that GHRH acts through the cAMP- second messenger system cascade to regulate GHRH-R mRNA. The somatostatin analogue, octreotide (10 nM), which has been previously reported to decrease adenylate cyclase activity, did not affect GHRH-R mRNA levels. Taken together, these results indicate that GHRH inhibits the production of its own receptor by a receptor-mediated, cAMP-dependent reduction of GHRH-R mRNA accumulation.
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