Double-labelling studies at the electron microscopic level demonstrated that gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-immunoreactive nerve endings are associated with growth-hormone-secreting cells in the proximal pars distalis of the goldfish pituitary gland, suggesting that GABA may be important for the control of growth hormone release in this species. An in vitro assay for GABA-transaminase activity demonstrated that the pituitary is a site for the metabolism of GABA to succinic acid. In vitro, GABA or the GABA antagonists bicuculline and saclofen did not affect the rate of growth hormone release from dispersed pituitary cells in static incubation. In contrast, intracerebroventricular injection of GABA reduced serum growth hormone levels within 30 min. During the seasonal gonadal cycle, intraperitoneal injection of GABA was without effect in sexually regressed goldfish, but caused a significant decrease in serum growth hormone levels in sexually recrudescent animals. Intraperitoneal implantation of solid silastic pellets containing oestradiol increased serum GH levels fivefold in sexually regressed and recrudescent goldfish; in both groups, GABA suppressed the oestradiol-stimulated increase in circulating growth hormone levels. The effect of oestradiol on basal serum growth hormone levels was specific since progesterone and testosterone were without effect. However, in recrudescent animals treated with progesterone and testosterone, the inhibitory effects of GABA on serum growth hormone levels were absent, indicating a differential role for these steroids in growth hormone release. Taken together, these results demonstrate that GABA has an inhibitory effect on growth hormone release in goldfish.

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