In order to determine whether corticosterone regulates activity of rat lactotrophs by acting directly at the pituitary level, immunohistochemical studies were carried out in adrenalectomized rats, subjected or not to treatment with corticosterone or colchicine, and in monolayer cultures after incubation with corticosterone. Adrenalectomy increased cellular and nuclear areas (p < 0.01) of prolactin-immunoreactive cells without affecting their cytoplasmic area. Similar results were found in adrenalectomized and colchicine-treated animals. Corticosterone reversed the effects of adrenalectomy, although normal values were partially reversed. In cultured pituitary cells, exposure to corticosterone reduced numerical density and cellular, cytoplasmic and nuclear areas with respect to control dishes. Morphological differences in shape, arrangement and nuclear features were observed after treatment with corticosterone. These results demonstrate an inhibitory effect of corticosterone on the activity of rat pituitary prolactin cells and suggest that corticosterone induces hypoactivity by acting on the pituitary prolactin cells of male rats.

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