Seasonal changes in the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis in birds.
There has been extensive research of the anterior pituitary gland of livestock and poultry due to the economic (agricultural) importance of physiological processes controlled by it including reproduction, growth, lactation and stress. Moreover, farm animals can be biomedical models or useful in evolutionary/ecological research. There are for multiple sites of control of the secretion of anterior pituitary hormones. These include the potential for independent control of proliferation, differentiation, de-differentiation and/or inter-conversion cell death, expression and translation, post-translational modification (potentially generating multiple isoforms with potentially different biological activities), release with or without a specific binding protein and intra-cellular catabolism (proteolysis) of pituitary hormones. Multiple hypothalamic hypophysiotropic peptides (which may also be produced peripherally, e.g. ghrelin) influence the secretion of the anterior pituitary hormones. There is also feedback for hormones from the target endocrine glands. These control mechanisms show broadly a consistency across species and life stages; however, there are some marked differences. Examples from growth hormone, prolactin, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone will be considered. In addition, attention will be focused on areas that have been neglected including the role of stellate cells, multiple sub-types of the major adenohypophyseal cells, functional zonation within the anterior pituitary and the role of multiple secretagogues for single hormones.