We studied plasminogen activator (PA) of the rat pituitary gland in organ and cell monolayer culture. Both anterior and intermediate lobes contain, synthesize and secrete a mixture consisting of the two known types of PA: urokinase and so-called tissue PA. Both enzymes were formed essentially by all PA secreting cells, and PA was identified specifically in mammotrophs, corticotrophs, and luteinizing hormone containing gonadotrophs. Pituitary PA production was modulated on exposure to a variety of biological effectors: anterior lobe PA secretion was stimulated by agents that raised intracellular cAMP concentration; his process depended on de novo enzyme synthesis. Enzyme production was repressed by androgens and glucocorticoids. When anterior lobe cultures were maintained in plasminogen-free media, the extracellular, secreted forms of ACTH consisted almost exclusively of the high molecular weight forms (31,000 and 23,000); the smaller forms (13,000 and 4,500) were also found in the extracellular medium of cultures supplemented with plasminogen. In contrast, the size distribution of intracellular ACTH species was unaffected by the presence of plasminogen. These results resemble those previously obtained with pancreatic islets and are consistent with the possibility that plasmin, generated by PA secretion, participates in prohormone processing. PA synthesis in intermediate lobe explants was stimulated by exposure to dibutyryl cAMP, and repressed by hydrocortisone. In accordance with the dopaminergic control of intermediate lobe function in some vertebrates, apomorphine strongly repressed PA synthesis in intermediate, but not anterior lobe cultures.

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