Intermittent hypoxia causes a suppressed pituitary growth hormone through somatostatin.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to investigate the response of the growth hormone (GH) in rat anterior pituitary to intermittent hypoxia (IH) and its modulation by hypothalamic somatostatin (SS).

SETTING AND DESIGN: To observe the hypoxic response, rats were exposed to simulated altitude hypoxia (2 km or 5 km) in a hypobaric chamber for various days (4 h/d); to clarify SS-involvement, rats were pretreated with SS antagonist (cysteamine, CSH, 200 mg/kg/d, s.c.) then exposed to IH (5 km) for 2d. The GH mRNA and immunostaining GH in pituitary as well as immunostaining SS in median eminence (ME) of hypothalamus were assayed by RT-PCR and immuno-histochemistry, respectively.

RESULTS: IH of 5 km altitude (IH5) markedly suppressed the body weight gain (BWG) of rats from 1d to 10d, and it was returned to control level henceforth, while no significant influence was showed in the group of IH of 2 km altitude (IH2). IH5 for 2 and 5d significantly decreased GH mRNA expression in the pituitary. The pituitary immunostaining GH was remarkably increased in groups of IH2 for 5, 10, and 15 d, and in groups of IH5 for 2, 5, and 10d. Immunostaining SS in ME was significantly reduced in group of IH2 for 5d, and in groups of IH5 for 2d and 5d. Pretreatments (s.c.) with SS antagonist (CSH) significantly reversed IH5-caused increase of immunostaining GH and reduction of mRNA levels in pituitary.

CONCLUSIONS: IH may cause a short-term and recoverable suppression of GH release, and reduce GH mRNA expression in anterior pituitary, which may depend on the intensity and duration of the hypoxia. This suppression may be due to a modulation of hypoxia-activated SS.

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