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The chromatin organization of the gonadotropin gene promoters in the pituitary gonadotropes plays a major role in determining how these gene are activated, but is difficult to study because of the low numbers of these cells in the pituitary gland. Here, we set out to create a cell model to study gonadotropin chromatin, and found that by optimizing cell culture conditions, we can maintain stable proliferating cultures of primary non-transformed gonadotrope cells over weeks to months. Although expression of the gonadotropin genes drops very low, these cells are enriched in gonadotrope markers and respond to GnRH. Furthermore, >85% of the cells contained Lhb and/or Fshb mature transcripts; though these were virtually restricted to the nuclei. The gonadotropes were harvested initially due to expression of dTOMATO, following activation of Cre recombinase by the Gnrhr promoter. Over 6 mo in culture, a similar proportion of the recombined DNA was maintained (i.e. cells derived from the original gonadotropes or having acquired Gnrhr-promoter activity), together with cells of a distinct origin. The cells are enriched with markers of proliferating pituitary and stem cells, including Sox2, suggesting that multipotent precursor cells might have proliferated and differentiated into gonadotrope-like cells. These cell cultures offer a new and versatile methodology for research in gonadotrope differentiation and function, and can provide enough primary cells for chromatin immunoprecipitation and epigenetic analysis, while our initial studies also indicate a possible regulatory mechanism that might be involved in the nuclear export of gonadotropin gene mRNAs. Copyright © 2021 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Lilach Pnueli, Dor Shalev, Tal Refael, Cfir David, Ulrich Boehm, Philippa Melamed. Proliferating primary pituitary cells as a model for studying regulation of gonadotrope chromatin and gene expression. Molecular and cellular endocrinology. 2021 Aug 01;533:111349

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PMID: 34090968

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