Folliculo-stellate cells and intercellular communication within the rat anterior pituitary gland

Tsuyoshi Soji, Yoshio Mabuchi, Chieko Kurono, Damon C. Herbert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Folliculo-stellate (FS) cell are agranular and arranged around a follicle. They contain the S-100 protein and β-adrenergic receptors. It has been suggested that they can act as stem cells, since they show mitotic figures, and could transform into granular or chromophilic cells according to the concept of a 'cell renewal system.' Cell-to-cell interactions among pituitary cells have been described, and recent progress with freeze-fracture electron microscopy has provided novel observations of the cell surface and gap junctions within the rat or teleost fish pituitary gland, or in cultured rat pituitary cells. In adult rats, the anterior pituitary was composed of lobules incompletely separated by a basement membrane. Follicles consisted exclusively of FS cells. Gap junctions were observed only between adjacent FS cells, in rare cases on the tips of their cytoplasmic processes. Thus, the FS cells, connected by gap junctions, made up a dense cellular network throughout the pituitary. Gap and tight junctions were absent on granular cells. Elongated follicles with columnar FS cells were observed in 10-day- old rats and were separated into smaller units. The number of gap junctions rapidly increased with age until 40-45 days of age. Few S-100 protein positive cells were observed on day 10, along the marginal cell layer and near the so-called postero-lateral wing. The frequency of positive cells increased with age and by day 40; numerous cells were observed throughout the anterior lobe. Gap junction number also varied with the stage of the estrous cycle, and frequency; during diestrus, they were half of that during proestrus or estrus. The number of gap junctions increased in late pregnancy and in lactating rats, probably due to changes in estrogen and progesterone. Hormone (LH-RH and testosterone) treated groups of rats showed accelerated development by almost 10 days, compared with controls. In castrated male rats, the ultrastructure of the pituitary remained immature even at 40 days of age, when the number of gap junctions was a quarter or less than the number in intact rats. Testosterone treatment restored the frequency of gap junctions to a normal level. We conclude that the appearance of gap junctions in the pituitary cells and maturation of the gland are dependent to a large degree upon gonadal steroids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-149
Number of pages12
JournalMicroscopy Research and Technique
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 15 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Castration
  • Folliculo-stellate cells
  • Gap junctions
  • Pituitary gland
  • Rat
  • Steroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology
  • Instrumentation
  • Medical Laboratory Technology


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