Thyrotropin‐Releasing Hormone Mediates Growth Hormone Release Induced by Milk and Nursing in Neonatal Rats

Bálint Kacsóh, Béla E. Tóth, Clark E. Grosvenor

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Previous evidence from this laboratory suggested that growth hormone (GH) release induced by milk in vitro and by nursing in vivo from neonatal rat pituitary glands is mediated by an alternative GH‐releasing factor(s) (GRF) distinct from GH‐releasing hormone (GHRH1–43). In the present experiments we tested whether thyrotropin‐releasing hormone (TRH) could fulfil the criteria of this alternative GRF in neonatal rats. The water‐soluble fraction of rat milk (infranatant, prepared by ultracentrifugation) and its methanol/acetic acid extract (milk‐borne peptides) stimulated GH release from perifused pituitary glands obtained from 2‐day‐old rats. Dialysis of the infranatant (mol wt cut‐off: 2,000) against 500 volumes of culture medium at 4°C eliminated its GH‐releasing activity in the perifusion system, while the infranatant retained its full GRF‐like activity when incubated at 4°C without dialysis. The milk‐borne GRF eluted as a single peak and coeluted with TRH in a combined gel permeation chromatography (Sephadex G‐10) and perifusion set‐up. Prolactin secretion was also stimulated simultaneously with the release of GH induced either by milk or by TRH. In a stepwise C18 reversed‐phase chromatography, milk‐borne GRF was highly hydrophilic and coeluted with synthetic TRH. The in vitro GH‐releasing bioactivities of synthetic TRH and a milk extract purified in C18 reversed‐phase chromatography were abolished by proline‐specific endopeptidase. Thus, TRH and milk‐borne GRF displayed similar molecular weights, hydropathic characteristics and proteolytic enzyme resistance. In vivo, nursing (which has been reported as a potent stimulus of GH secretion even in the absence of milk‐intake) increased serum GH levels in 2‐day‐old pups. A supramaximal dose of TRH (10 ng/g intraperitoneally) stimulated GH release in 2‐day‐old pups separated from their mothers for 6 h to a similar extent as nursing. Nursing‐induced levels of serum GH were not further elevated by TRH. This failure of TRH to further increase serum GH levels was not due to a maximal GH output by the neonatal pituitary gland, since the GH release induced by the serotonin precursor 5‐hydroxy‐L‐tryptophan was augmented either by TRH or by nursing. These data provide evidence that the milk‐borne GRF‐like activity in vitro is indistinguishable from TRH, and suggest that TRH (probably of hypothalamic origin) might be the mediator of the nursing‐induced release of GH in vivo as a physiological GRF in neonatal rats.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-672
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neuroendocrinology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1992


  • 5‐hydroxy‐L‐tryptophan
  • nursing
  • perifusion
  • pituitary gland
  • prolactin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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