• growth plate;
  • chondrocyte;
  • growth hormone receptor;
  • growth hormone binding protein;
  • tyramide signal amplification


Growth hormone (GH) has direct effects on the growth plate to stimulate longitudinal growth, but it is not clear which chondrocyte populations GH acts on. The dual effector theory suggests that GH would act primarily on the “stem cells.” However, staining with a GH receptor (GHR) antibody is found in all layers of the growth plate in rabbits and humans. We now have investigated the localization and regulation of GHR and the related GH binding protein (GHBP) in the rat growth plate using a sensitive immunohistochemical method involving tyramide signal amplification (TSA) and antibodies specific for GHR or GHBP. Both GHR and GHBP were shown in the germinal and proliferative chondrocytes, but most clearly in early maturing chondrocytes at the interface between proliferative and hypertrophic cells. Staining for GHR and GHBP was located in both the cytoplasm and the nucleus. Expression of GHR mRNA and GHBP mRNA in the growth plate was confirmed by reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Immunohistochemical staining for GHR and GHBP decreased with age; in 12-week-old normal rats, only the early maturing chondrocytes were stained. In GH-deficient dwarf rats, staining seemed less than in normal rats, and in hypophysectomized (Hx) rats, staining for GHBP was clearly reduced. Treatment of Hx rats with thyroid hormones (T3 + T4), via subcutaneously (sc) implanted osmotic minipumps, induced little growth and induced a small layer of GHR-positive and GHBP-positive early maturing chondrocytes. Treatment with GH and thyroid hormones (TH) resulted in greater growth and a broader layer of GHR-positive and GHBP-positive cells, indistinguishable from normal rats. In contrast, dexamethasone treatment of normal rats inhibited their growth and reduced GHR and GHBP staining in the growth plate. These results show that GHR and GHBP in the growth plate are under hormonal control. The localization of GHR/GHBP suggests that in addition to actions on germinal and proliferative cells in young rats, GH also has effects on early maturing chondrocytes and may be involved in their differentiation to a fully hypertrophic chondrocyte.