Estrogen induction of prolactin-producing pituitary tumors in the Fischer 344 rat: Modulation by dietary-energy but not protein consumption

James D. Shull, Diane F. Birt, Rodney D. McComb, Thomas J. Spady, Karen L. Pennington, Carla M. Shaw-Bruha

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Our laboratory is examining the hypothesis that diet may modulate the ability of estrogens to regulate cell proliferation and survival, either of which could affect development of neoplasms in estrogen-responsive tissues. In this study, we examined whether the amount of energy and protein consumed in the diet modulates the ability of the synthetic estrogen diethylstilbestrol (DES) to induce development of prolactin-producing pituitary tumors in two strains of rat, Fischer 344 (F344) and Holtzman, that differ in their propensity to develop pituitary tumors when treated with estrogens. Male F344 rats treated with DES for 8 wk developed pituitary tumors (defined as grossly enlarged pituitary masses that displayed diffuse lactotroph hyperplasia but lacked adenomatous foci). In contrast, male Holtzman rats displayed only a modest increase in pituitary weight in response to DES. Energy consumption but not protein consumption modulated DES-induced pituitary tumorigenesis in the male F344 rat. Relative to that observed in untreated animals, pituitary weights in F344 rats treated with DES increased 11.2- and 9.2-fold in animals fed either the control diet or an equicaloric high-protein diet, respectively, but only 3.5-fold in animals fed an energy-restricted diet. In contrast, neither the amount of energy nor protein consumed in the diet affected the modest pituitary growth response of male Holtzman rats to administered DES. Energy restriction had no apparent effect on pituitary cell proliferation, either basal or DES stimulated, in these rat strains. We concluded that dietary energy restriction inhibits the ability of administered DES to induce pituitary tumor development in the F344 rat by acting at a step after induction of pituitary cell proliferation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)96-105
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Carcinogenesis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1998



  • DNA synthesis
  • Diethylstilbestrol
  • Holtzman rat
  • Lactotroph

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research

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