Flow cytometry is a suitable technique for studying in vivo and in vitro the cell cycle kinetics of different animal and human tissues, both in normal and tumoral conditions. The rat anterior pituitary gland is a model to investigate cell growth and replication of differentiated, neuroendocrine cells, and we report current evidence on its cell cycle kinetics as well as on the role played by flow cytometry in this type of study. The proliferation potential of normal anterior pituitary cells is related to a number of different conditions, including heterogeneity of cell types, age and sex of donors, and circadian influences. In addition, the trend of cell proliferation in both in vivo and in vitro studies is similar, suggesting that cultured anterior pituitary elements may, at least in part, retain growth features analogous to those of the intact gland. Sorting of selective cell types and analysis of the relation between proliferating anterior pituitary cells and the light-dark cycle have shown that flow cytometry may be useful to investigate the replication process of the gland. By using a combination of flow cytometry, light microscopic immunocytochemistry and morphometry, we have reported a peculiar trend of proliferation in primary monolayer cultures of rat anterior pituitary gland, characterized by a non-linear reduction in their proliferation rate with advancing age, primarily dependent on a reduced transition of cells from the G0/G1- to the early S-phase pool. These studies indicate that flow cytometry offers insights into cell cycle check points of anterior pituitary cells, and suggest that it might be applied to the study of growth of selective pituitary elements, both in normal and tumoral conditions.
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