We immunocytochemically stained rat pituitary glands using antibodies against plasminogen activators of the tissue type (t-PA) and the urokinase type (u-PA). A large population of endocrine cells in the anterior lobe of the gland displayed intense cytoplasmic immunoreactivity with anti-t-PA. In some areas of the intermediate lobe we found a weak staining, and we observed weakly staining granular structures in the posterior lobe. Controls included absorption of the antibodies with highly purified t-PA. In addition, SDS PAGE followed by immunoblotting of pituitary gland extracts revealed only one band with an electrophoretic mobility similar to that of t-PA when stained with anti-t-PA IgG. No u-PA immunoreactivity was detected in the rat pituitary gland. Sequential staining experiments using antibodies against growth hormone and t-PA demonstrated that the t-PA-immunoreactive cells constitute a large subpopulation of the growth hormone-containing cells. These findings represent the first direct evidence for the presence of t-PA in cell types other than endothelial cells in the intact normal organism. In this article we discuss the implications of the results for a possible role of t-PA in the posttranslational processing of prohormones.

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