Exposure to dexamethasone reduces pituitary volume and gonadotropic cell number in rat fetuses
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Overexposure to glucocorticoids during the fetal period induces changes in developmental processes in various fetal tissues. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of the synthetic glucocorticoid, dexamethasone (Dx), on pituitary volume and gonadotropic cells during a critical period of pituitary development. The effects of Dx on stereological parameters of the pituitary gland and FSH and LH cells were investigated in 19 and 21-day old fetuses. On day 16 of pregnancy, the experimental dams received 1.0 mg Dx/kg b.w. subcutaneously, followed by 0.5 mg Dx/kg b.w./day on days 17 and 18 of gestation. The control gravid females received the same volume of saline. FSH and LH cells were stained immunohistochemically by the peroxidase-antiperoxidase method (PAP). In 19-day old fetuses, exposure to Dx caused a significant decrease of pituitary volume, estimated by Cavalieri's principle. Also, the total number of FSH and LH cells per pituitary, determined by physical fractionator counting technique, was significantly reduced. These changes persisted until fetal day 21. Volume densities and numerical densities of FSH and LH cells after exposure to Dx in 19 and 21-day old fetuses remained unaffected. Our results suggest that altered stereological parameters in pituitary gland after exposure to dexamethasone in fetal period could be long-lasting. (C) 2014 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.