The distribution of estrogen receptors (ER), progesterone receptors (PR), PRL, and gonadotropins in different cell types of the monkey pituitary was examined by immunocytochemical (ICC) labeling of pituitary cell cultures. Dispersed monkey pituitary cells were cultured on extracellular matrix and in serum-free medium for 6-14 days. Individual cultures were singly stained for ER, PR, PRL, LH, and FSH or double labeled for PR and one of the protein hormones. ICC reaction product localizes over the nuclei of cells that are positive for the steroid receptors, whereas reaction product localizes over the cytoplasm of cells that are positive for the protein hormones. Sixty-one percent of the parenchymal cells were positive for PRL, while 1-3% were positive for LH or FSH. Sixty-two percent of the parenchymal cells were ER positive. ER staining was localized over the nuclei of two morphologically distinct cell types. One cell type is smaller and more prevalent than the second cell type. Based on single staining for each of the protein hormones, we propose that the smaller cells are lactotropes, and the larger cells are gonadotropes. PR-positive cells averaged 7.7% of the parenchymal cells. Double ICC staining for PR and the protein hormones demonstrated that PR localize in the nuclei of gonadotropes, but not lactotropes, of monkey pituitary cell cultures. the absence of PR in lactotropes is consistent with our observation that progesterone has no direct effect on PRL secretion in monkey pituitary cell cultures. In contrast, the presence of PR in gonadotropes suggests that progesterone may act directly at the pituitary to modulate gonadotropin secretion in the primate. In conclusion, ER are present in both lactotropes and gonadotropes. PR are present in gonadotropes, but not lactotropes, of the primate pituitary.
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