The most obvious functional differences between mammalian males and females are related to the control of reproductive physiology and include patterns of GnRH and gonadotropin release, the timing of puberty, sexual and social behavior, and the regulation of food intake and body weight. Using the rat as the best-studied mammalian model for maturation, we examined the expression of major anterior pituitary genes in five secretory cell types of developing males and females. Corticotrophs show comparable Pomc profiles in both sexes, with the highest expression occurring during the infantile period. Somatotrophs and lactotrophs also exhibit no difference in Gh1 and Prl profiles during embryonic to juvenile age but show the amplification of Prl expression in females and Gh1 expression in males during peripubertal and postpubertal ages. Gonadotrophs exhibit highly synchronized Lhb, Fshb, Cga, and Gnrhr expression in both sexes, but the peak of expression occurs during the infantile period in females and at the end of the juvenile period in males. Thyrotrophs also show different developmental Tshb profiles, which are synchronized with the expression of gonadotroph genes in males but not in females. These results indicate the lack of influence of sex on Pomc expression and the presence of two patterns of sexual dimorphism in the expression of other pituitary genes: a time shift in the peak expression during postnatal development, most likely reflecting the perinatal sex-specific brain differentiation, and modulation of the amplitude of expression during late development, which is secondary to the establishment of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal and -thyroid axes.
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Vol. 93 • No. 1