Administration of estrogen (E) to immature chicks triggers the cytodifferentiation of tubular gland cells in the magnum portion of the oviduct epithelium; these cells synthesize the major egg-white protein, ovalbumin. Electron microscopy and immunoprecipitation of ovalbumin from oviduct explants labeled with radioactive amino acids in tissue culture were used to follow and measure the degree of tubular gland cell cytodifferentiation. Ovalbumin is undetectable in the unstimulated chick oviduct and in oviducts of chicks treated with progesterone (P) for up to 5 days. Ovalbumin synthesis is first detected 24 hr after E administration, and by 5 days it accounts for 35% of the soluble protein being synthesized. Tubular gland cells begin to synthesize ovalbumin before gland formation which commences after 36 hr of E treatment. When E + P are administered together there is initially a synergistic effect on ovalbumin synthesis, however, after 2 days ovalbumin synthesis slows and by 5 days there is only 1/20th as much ovalbumin per magnum as in the E-treated controls. Whereas the magnum wet weight doubles about every 21 hr with E alone, growth stops after 3 days of E + P treatment. Histological and ultrastructural observations show that the partially differentiated tubular gland cells resulting from E + P treatment never invade the stroma and form definitive glands, as they would with E alone. Instead, these cells appear to transform into other cell types—some with cilia and some with unusual flocculent granules. We present a model of tubular gland cell cytodifferentiation and suggest that a distinct protodifferentiated stage exists. P appears to interfere with the normal transition from the protodifferentiated state to the mature tubular gland cell.

This content is only available as a PDF.