Intercellular Communication Within the Rat Anterior Pituitary Gland: X. Immunohistocytochemistry of S-100 and Connexin 43 of Folliculo-Stellate Cells in the Rat Anterior Pituitary Gland

Nobuyuki Shirasawa, Yoshio Mabuchi, Eisuke Sakuma, Osamu Horiuchi, Takashi Yashiro, Motoshi Kikuchi, Yasuo Hashimoto, Yoshihiro Tsuruo, Damon C. Herbert, Tsuyoshi Soji

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Since Rinehart and Farquhar reported the presence of agranulated cells in the anterior pituitary gland in 1953, the functions of the folliculo-stellate cell remain to be clarified. Intercellular junctions have been described in the monkey, rat, and teleost anterior pituitary glands, indicating the existence of cell-to-cell communication within the organ. We pointed to their possible role in the rapid dissemination of information through a complex interconnecting system of follicles involving gap junctions. The gap junctional/folliculo-stellate cellular network was essential in the maturation and regulation of the pituitary gland system such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis. It has been was shown that a network participated in the conduction of electrophysiological information over a long distance using the ion Ca++, which propagates to other folliculo-stellate cells by signaling through gap junctions. Sixty-day-old male rats were used in this study for light microscopic immunohistochemistry of S-100 protein, type I collagen, and connexin 43, and for electron microscopy to observe the morphological relationships between the cellular networks of folliculo-sterate cells and granulated pituitary cells. Clusters of anti-S-100 protein-positive cells were clearly observed in a region of the hypophysis tentatively named the transition zone. Anti-S-100 protein-positive cells and their cytoplasmic processes were also present in the anterior lobe and assembled together to form follicular lumina. Type I collagen was clearly shown outlining the incomplete lobular or ductule-like structure making cell cords in the anterior pituitary gland. Numerous microvilli were present within the follicular lumen while around the lumina, junctional specializations including gap junctions were positive for the connexin 43 protein. A nonuniform distribution of the connexin 43-positive sites were observed. Small or dot-shaped positive sites were noted where two clusters of cells were connected; the cells were identified as S-100 cells. Double immunohistochemical staining of the connexin 43 and growth hormone (GH) or connexin 43 and luteinizing hormone (LH) was also performed, demonstrating no direct relationship between the connexin 43 and either the GH or LH cells. These findings indicate that there are two kinds of messages necessary for the hormone release in the pituitary gland. One is via the portal vein system, the other is through the gap junction-mediated networks of folliculo-stellate cells. The granulated cells directly associate with cell membrane of folliculo-stellate cells are able to discharge secretory granules through communication via gap junctions, while those granulated cells that are more distant from the folliculo-stellate cells are only able to discharge hormones via the pituitary hormone-releasing hormone from the portal vein system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-473
Number of pages12
JournalAnatomical Record - Part A Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2004


  • Connexin
  • Folliculo-stellate cells
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Pituitary gland
  • S-100 protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)


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