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Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 1999 Oct;26(10):760-4.

Growth hormone as a cytokine.

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Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Australia.


1. The growth hormone (GH) receptor was the first of the class 1 cytokine receptors to be cloned. It shares a number of structural characteristics with other family members and common signalling mechanisms based on common usage of the Janus kinase 2 (JAK2). 2. Growth hormone receptor activation is initiated by GH-induced homodimerization of receptor molecules. This has enabled the creation of specific hormone antagonists that block receptor dimerization. 3. The details of the transcription factors used by the activated receptor are being revealed as a result of promoter analyses and electrophoretic mobility gelshift analysis. 4. Growth hormone receptors are widespread and their discovery in certain tissues has led to the assignment of new physiological roles for GH. Some of these involve local or paracrine roles for GH, as befits its cytokine status. 5. Four examples of such novel roles are discussed. These are: (i) the brain GH axis; (ii) GH and the vitamin B12 axis; (iii) GH in early pre-implantation development; and (iv) GH in development of the tooth. 6. We propose that the view that GH acts through the intermediacy of insulin-like growth factor-1 is simplistic; rather, GH acts to induce an array of growth factors and their receptors and the composition of this array varies with tissue type and, probably, stage of development.

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