Gh plays important roles in development, somatic growth and gametogenesis in vertebrates. To determine the physiological role of Gh in reproduction in male teleosts, the expression of genes encoding Gh and the two Gh receptors (Ghrs) during spermatogenesis, and the action of Gh in vitro was examined using the Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica). gh, ghr1 and ghr2 mRNA transcripts were detected in all spermatogenic stages. In situ hybridization showed the presence of ghr1 and ghr2 mRNA in the germ cells. Immunohistochemistry using an antiserum against eel Gh indicated that Gh protein was localized to Sertoli cells surrounding the germ cells in early spermatogenesis. Recombinant eel Gh induced spermatogonial proliferation in a testis organ culture system, an effect that was independent from the production of steroid hormones or Igf1. This study identifies a role for eel Gh in the regulation of early spermatogenesis, particularly in the mitotic phase of spermatogenesis, that is not mediated by either steroid hormones or Igf1 production.
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