• Rat;
  • Pituitary gland;
  • Cell proliferation;
  • PCNA;
  • BrdU;
  • Immunohistochemistry;
  • Estrous cycle;
  • Sexual difference


Proliferative activity of the anterior pituitary gland in 10 week-old male and female rats under normal conditions was investigated by counting mitotic figures and using single and double immunostaining of 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BrdU), proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA), and six pituitary hormones. To determine which proliferative changes depend on the estrous cycle and circadian changes, respectively, six groups of female and two groups of male rats were studied at various times of day. Additionally, BrdU-incorporated cells were further classified by the six types of hormones they contained, or as immunonegative cells. Cell proliferative activity in the females fluctuated drastically with the highest activity in estrus and the lowest in diestrus. In the males, proliferative activity was at a relatively low level, and was similar to that in females in proestrus or early estrus, with the greater activity at night. Identified by their pituitary hormones, the distribution of the proliferating cells was almost the same in each sex, with prolactin (PRL) cells accounting for the highest proportion, followed by growth hormone (GH) cells, and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) cells. These percentages agreed well with previously reported levels of cell types among all pituitary cells of the rat. It is therefore suggested that the life span and cycle of rat pituitary cells does not differ among cell types. In another test, male and female rats were given BrdU continuously via an osmotic pump for 8 days to compare cell proliferative activity between sexes, exclusive of the influence of estrous cycle and circadian changes. In this way, we were able to demonstrate that the cumulative incorporation of BrdU in females was consistently twice as high as in males over a constant period of time, and to conclude that cell renewal occurs at a doubled rate in the pituitary of female rat. © Wiley-Lis, Inc.