Epidermal growth factor (EGF) is a potent regulator of cell function in many cell types. In mammals, the EGF/EGFR system played an important role in both pituitary physiology and pathology. However, it is not clear about the pituitary action of EGF in lower vertebrates. In this study, using grass carp as a model, we found that EGF could stimulate NK3R mRNA and protein expression through pituitary ErbB1 and ErbB2 coupled to MEK/ERK and PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathways. In addition, EGF could also induce pituitary somatolactin α (SLα) secretion and mRNA expression in a dose- and time-dependent manner in vivo and in vitro. The stimulatory actions of EGF on SLα mRNA expression were also mediated by PI3K/Akt/mTOR and MEK/ERK pathways coupled to ErbB1 and ErbB2 activation. Our previous study has reported that neurokinin B (NKB) could also induce SLα secretion and mRNA expression in carp pituitary cells. In the present study, interestingly, we found that EGF could significantly enhance NKB-induced SLα mRNA expression. Further studies found that NK3R antagonist SB222200 could block EGF-induced SLα mRNA expression, indicating an NK3R requirement. Furthermore, cAMP/PKA inhibitors and PLC/PKC inhibitors could both abolish EGF- and EGF+NKB-induced SLα mRNA expression, which further supported that EGF-induced SLα mRNA expression is NK3R dependent.
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