Estrogens stimulate cell proliferation in typical estrogen-responsive tissues including the anterior pituitary gland. Here we report that 17-β estradiol (E2) has estrogen receptormediated mitogenic and antimitogenic actions on rat lactotrophs in primary culture, depending on the cell context. E2 did not affect basal proliferation at 2 d after treatment, but it increased it at 4 d. Insulin markedly increased proliferative activity, which was inhibited by simultaneous treatment with E2, even after only 2 d of treatment. This antimitogenic action on insulin-induced proliferation was also observed with other estrogens but not with nonestrogenic steroids. Treatment with antiestrogens in combination with E2 antagonized both the mitogenic and antimitogenic actions of E2. Antiestrogen treatment alone inhibited basal proliferation, and it mimicked the inhibitory action of E2 on insulin-induced proliferation with less potency. In parallel with cell proliferation, an insulin-induced increase in the cell number of cyclin D1-immunoreactive lactotrophs was inhibited by E2 treatment. Although the antimitogenic action of E2 was seen with a wide range of doses of insulin or IGF-1, proliferation was stimulated rather than inhibited by E2 when cells were treated with serum or forskolin/isobutylmethylxanthine instead of insulin, indicating a mitogen-specific, but not proliferative activity-dependent, inhibition by E2. The results of estrogen-occupied estrogen receptors as negative regulators of proliferation suggest a novel interaction between estrogen and growth factors in the regulation of proliferation in estrogen-responsive cells.
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