The impact of aging on pituitary folliculostellate (FS) cells is not well known. The aim of the work reported here was to carry out a quantitative immunohistochemical assessment of the FS population in male and female rats during aging and to correlate the findings with possible changes at the ultrastructural level. Young (4 months), old (20 months) and senescent (29 months) Sprague-Dawley rats of both sexes were sacrificed by rapid decapitation, their pituitaries dissected and processed by both light immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy. Serial sections (4 µm) were obtained at different levels and immunostained by means of rabbit anti-S100 serum as the primary antibody and a peroxidase-mediated EnVision System (Dako). Measurement of volume density (VD) and cell density (CD) was made in S100-reacting elements by means of an image analysis system (Imaging Technology, Optimas). These parameters were found to be significantly (p < 0.05) decreased in old and senescent rats as compared to young animals. In senescent females, which presented a high incidence of microprolactinomas, a significant (p < 0.01) increment of VD and CD was observed in FS cells in the area surrounding the adenomas, together with a marked decrease in those parameters within the tumors. Sexual dimorphism was not found except for the prolactinoma-bearing female group. The ultrastructure of FS cells showed the typical characteristics previously described in the pituitary gland. Only moderate changes in the endoplasmic reticulum were observed in old and senescent animals. We conclude that aging has a clear effect on the morphology of the pituitary FS cell population.

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