The activity and proliferation of pituitary prolactin-positive cells and pituitary VIP-positive cells are regulated by interleukin 6.
It is known that interleukin 1beta (IL-1beta) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) are expressed post-natally in normal and tumoral cells in the anterior pituitary, and that they play a role in both the liberation of different hormones and in the growth, proliferation and tumor formation of the pituitary gland. However, their expression and role during embryonic and fetal development remain unknown. We have performed an immunocytochemistry study of prenatal expression and distribution of IL-1beta and IL-6 in isolated embryonic rat Rathke's pouch prior to birth, more specifically between 13.5 and 19.5 days p.c. Western-blot analysis carried out on 19.5-day p.c. embryos showed positive immunolabelling for IL-1beta and IL-6. These interleukins were initially expressed simultaneously in the rostral and ventral portions of Rathke's pouch in 15.5-day p.c. embryos, and this expression progressed caudodorsally in later developmental stages, extending to most of the hypophysis before birth. The number of cells expressing these interleukins increased throughout this period: 48.22% of anterior pituitary cells expressed IL-6 in 19.5-day embryos, whilst IL-1beta was positive in 39.8% of the cells. Moreover, we have demonstrated that some adenohypophyseal cells co-express both interleukins. Such findings represent the first step towards an understanding of the physiological role of these interleukins in anterior pituitary development.