Epidermal growth factor induces the functional expression of dopamine receptors in the GH3 cell line

Cristina Missale, Laura Castelletti, Flora Boroni, Maurizio Memo, Pierfranco Spano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


GH3 cells are a clonal strain from a rat pituitary tumor that synthesizes and secretes both PRL and GH. The peculiarity of these cells is that they do not express receptors for dopamine; thus the hormone release is insensitive to the inhibitory effect of dopamine and D2 receptor agonists. Exposure of GH3 cells to epidermal growth factor for 4 consecutive days markedly altered the cell morphology, from a spherical appearance to an elongated flattened shape, and increased the cell size. These morphological changes were accompanied by the functional expression of D2 dopamine receptors as shown by the presence of a specific, saturable, and stereoselective high affinity binding for [3H]spiroperidol in epidermal growth factor-treated cells and by the fact that the selective D2 agonist quinpirole recovered the property to inhibit PRL secretion in the cell cultures exposed to the neurotrophic factor. The effect of EGF on the functional expression of D2 receptors was dose dependent (EC50 = 8 pM) and reversible. These data suggest that EGF elicits major effects on the expression of specific genes leading to the differentiation of GH3 cells into lactotroph-like cells endowed with dopamine D2 receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-20
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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