The purpose of this study was to determine whether normal morphological development occurs in pituitary corticotrophs deprived of products of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN), e.g. corticotropin releasing hormone and arginine vasopressin (AVP), after PVN lesions. In addition, we have attempted to ascertain if the neu- rophysin/AVP-positive fibers innervating the fetal sheep anterior pituitary are affected by PVN lesions. The experimental groups consisted of fetal sheep in which 1) hypothalamic PVN lesions were placed at 118-122 days gestation (dGA) and the fetuses subsequently harvested while still in utero at 157 dGA or more (PVNX; n = 5); 2) sham PVN lesions were placed at 118-122 dGA and subsequently harvested as newborn lambs immediately after birth at 146.5 ± 0.9 (mean ± SEM) dGA combined with two uninstrumented fetuses harvested at 144 dGA or more but not in labor (perinatal; n = 6); and 3) no instrumentation was placed, and the fetuses were harvested at 120 dGA (control; n = 4). Two ACTH-immunoreactive cell types were seen in the anterior pituitary: 1) fetal cells: large and variably stained, often columnar, occurring in clusters and arranged in palisades; and 2) adult cells: smaller, darkly staining, and angular, occurring singly or in small groups. Quantification of the distribution of the two ACTH cell types was performed by scanning sections from a one in six series from each pituitary and estimating the percent area of each section in the well that showed adult type staining only. The observer was blind to the treatment group assignment of the sections. The estimated percentages of the portion of the pituitaries of each group that contained adult- type cells only were as follows: PVNX, 42.8 ± 10.0%; perinatal, 90.9 ± 2.1%; and control, 3.7 ± 1.1% (mean ± SEM; P < 0.05 for all comparisons). There were no qualitative differences between all groups in the appearance of neurophysin-positive fibers innervating the anterior pituitary. AVP staining was strong in the internal zone of the median eminence in all groups, but was absent in the external zone of PVNX fetuses only. The intermediate pituitary lobes stained darkly in all groups. We conclude that lesions of the PVN at 120 dGA delay development of fetal pituitary corticotrophs, but have no effect on the presence of neurophysin-positive nerve fibers in the anterior pituitary.
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