BACKGROUND In mice transgenic for growth hormone (GH), the ectopic production of foreign GH causes gigantism and strong inhibition of endogenous pituitary GH. In human (h) GH transgenics, morphologic changes occurred not only in somatotrophs but in lactotrophs, corticotrophs, and gonadotrophs as well. To distinguish between changes attributed to somatotrophic effect of hGH from those caused by its lactogenic effects, we studied the pituitary morphology of bovine (b) GH transgenics since bGH has no lactogenic activity. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN Pituitaries from transgenic mice and nontransgenic siblings were studied by immunocytochemistry for adenohypophysial hormones, in situ hybridization for GH, prolactin (PRL), and proopiomelanocortin mRNAs, and electron microscopy. RESULTS Transgenic mice had an increased body weight and a significantly decreased pituitary mass. In both sexes, GH immunoreactive cells were markedly reduced in size and moderately decreased in number, and the GH mRNA signal was lower compared with controls; ultrastructurally, in somatotrophs, the cytoplasmic organelles involved in hormone synthesis were inconspicuous. Males were normoprolactinemic, and lactotrophs showed no morphologic changes. In transgenic females, PRL immunoreactive cells were hypertrophic and appeared to be more numerous. In transgenic males, a mild increase in size and number of follicle-stimulating hormone/luteinizing hormone immunoreactive cells was noted. No changes were evident in corticotrophs and thyrotrophs in either sex. In the intermediate and posterior lobes, many corticotrophs and pituicytes were GH immunoreactive, indicating expression of metallothionein-1 (MT)-bGH transgene. CONCLUSIONS Pituitaries of MT-bGH transgenic mice contained somatotrophs with morphologic features of inhibition. Endogenous GH production was not completely suppressed as indicated by the presence of GH mRNA and GH immunoreactivity. Females had a mild increase in percentage of PRL immunoreactive cells, and previous biochemical data proved that they were hyperprolactinemic. Substantial differences in pituitary morphology between transgenic MT-bGH mice and MT-hGH animals studied previously can be due to the fact that bGH is purely somatotropic, whereas hGH is both somatotropic and lactogenic.