Stored rat pituitary growth hormone (GH) is functionally divided into immediately releasable and more stable compartments. These observations are consistent with either intracellular hormone compartmentalization within cells of a functionally homogeneous somatotroph population or summed responses from a heterogeneous population of functionally specialized cell subgroups. We investigated the pituitary's ability to recruit stored rGH to replenish depleted immediate release pools. We used perifused pituitary fragments whose stored rGH was labeled during pre-incubation in the presence of [3H] leucine. Initial immediate release pool depletion was accomplished by continuous exposure to combined 21 mM potassium ion (K+) and 1 mM dibutyryl cyclic AMP (dbcAMP). During a subsequent perifusion period in the presence of either no secretagogue, continuing 21 mM K+, or continuing 1 mM dbcAMP, we examined release of stored [3H]rGH in response to repetitive 15 min pulses of 21 mM K+ or 1 mM dbcAMP. Analysis was by specific immunoprecipitation. We had demonstrated that K+ and dbcAMP pulses can stimulate repetitive, albeit diminishing, stored [3H]rGH release responses. However, following pre-treatment with combined 21 mM K+ and 1 mM dbcAMP: (i) pulses of dbcAMP stimulated almost no stored [3H]rGH release in the presence of 21 mM K+ or in the absence of a background secretagogue; and (ii) stored [3H]rGH release in response to pulses of K+ was attenuated in the absence of background secretagogue but fully restored in the presence of dbcAMP. Conclusions: (i) at least some individual somatotrophs can compartmentalize stored hormone; and (ii) an active transport system facilitates restoration of somatotroph immediate release pools using stored rGH.
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