Gh secretion has been thought traditionally to be regulated by the two hypothalamic hormones, Gh-releasing hormone (Ghrh) and somatostatin (Srif). Recent evidence has suggested that other factors may be involved. These factors include the natural ligand for the synthetic hexapeptide Gh-releasing peptide (Ghrp) and the putative hypophysiotropic factor pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (Pa-Cap). Accordingly, we examined the effects of Ghrp and Pacap on Gh secretion at the single cell level using the reverse hemolytic plaque assay which allows distinction of effects on the number of secreting cells and the amount of hormone each cell secretes. Both factors stimulated Gh secretion in a dose-dependent fashion, with Pacap being more effective. Pacap increased both the number of cells secreting and the mean amount of hormone secreted per cell. In contrast, Ghrp increased the number of secreting cells, although it had no effect on the amount of secretion per cell. Gh secretion induced by Ghrh, Ghrp, and Pacap was inhibited by Srif, but the effect was predominantly on the number of cells secreting rather than the amount secreted per cell. Specific antagonists to Ghrp and Ghrh inhibited Gh secretion induced by the respective agonist but not that induced by the other factor nor by Pacap. These findings confirm the complex nature of the regulation of Gh secretion at the level of the somatotrope. At least three factors, operating via distinct receptors, are able to increase Gh secretion. In addition, they ascribe a potential physiological role for the hitherto putative hypophysiotropic factor Pacap.
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