We have combined different techniques to analyse passages of five different rat spontaneous pituitary tumours (SMtTW) that were transplanted under the kidney capsule. These tumours were secreting prolactin (PRL), GH or both hormones. RIA, immunocytochemistry (ICC) and Western blot analysis were applied to characterize the hormone(s) stored (ICC and Western blot) and secreted (RIA). mRNA content was analysed by PCR, Northern blot analysis and in situ hybridization.
The data point not only to the reliability of the techniques used at both protein and RNA levels for each tumour studied but also to the complementarity of some techniques. For example, whereas Northern blot analysis demonstrates the presence and size of hormone mRNA, in situ hybridization indicates the percentage of cells expressing a given hormone mRNA and allows the presence of one population (or more) of cells in a given tumour to be identified.
Moreover, the tumours were compared with normal rat pituitary. Although the PRL and GH mRNAs were identical in size, the amount of mRNA was lower in the tumours. At the protein level, the PRL and GH variants exhibited a different pattern of expression in tumours compared with the normal rat pituitary.
The biological significance of these differences is discussed.