The presence and synthesis of vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP) has been demonstrated in the rat anterior pituitary. It was recently confirmed that immunoreactive VIP is present in the anterior pituitary, and in a thyroid-deficient state, VIP could be detected by light microscopic im-munohistochemistry. It has also been suggested that VIP plays a stimulatory role in PRL secretion. To gain more detailed information on the localization of VIP and the conditions that alter the synthesis of VIP, we examined VIP immunoreactivity using immunohistochemistry in pituitaries of normal male and cycling female rats and in those states in which PRL secretion was enhanced (pregnancy, lactation, long term estrogen treatment, and pituitary implanted under kidney capsule of normal or estrogen-treated female rats). In situ, implanted and cultured pituitary cells were stained for VIP immunoreactivity using the peroxidase-antiperoxidase method. VIP immunoreactivity was observed in about 45% of the male rats, in all estrogen-treated female rats, in the implanted pituitaries under the kidney capsule (three of five from estrogen-treated and one of five from intact females, respectively), and in the pituitary cell cultures derived from estrogen-treated rats. Using a double labeling procedure we have also observed PRL immunoreactivity in a small population of the VIP-positive cells. These results suggest a positive regulatory role of estrogen in expression of the VIP gene. The physiological and pathophysiological significance of VIP in PRL secretion, however, remains to be clarified.
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