The effect of pituitary growth hormone on the biosynthesis of DNA in the thymus and other lymphoid organs, as well as the ability of the rat to respond immunologically to sheep red blood cells, has been evaluated. There is a marked reduction in plaque-forming cells, hemagglutination titers, and DNA synthesis in animals when examined at 15 wk after hypophysectomy. Administration of bovine growth hormone (BGH) leads to the enhancement of DNA synthesis in lymphoid organs and recovery of the immune response. Similar effects of the hormone are observed in plateaued rats. Injection of rabbit anti-BGH globulins, in contrast to normal rabbit globulins, over 5 days causes a drop in the weight of the thymus and in the rate of DNA synthesis in this organ. The thymus is also the organ in which stimulation of DNA synthesis is observed at a time period earlier than the spleen and lymph nodes after a single injection of BGH. The hormone stimulates not only the incorporation of thymidine-3H into DNA in the cortical cells, but also the incorporation of sodium sulfate-35S into TCA-insoluble biopolymers reported to be elaborated in the medullary area of the thymus.
An in vitro system for the action of BGH on the thymus has been described. There is an obligatory requirement for calcium, but not for fetal calf serum in the medium for the hormone effect. An early action of the hormone is the enhanced incorporation of uridine-G-3H into RNA in thymocytes which is followed by a stimulation of the synthesis of proteins and DNA. The stimulatory action of growth hormone on RNA synthesis is not because of a facilitated uptake of the radioactive uridine by the cells under hormonal influence, a mechanism by which insulin is observed to increase RNA synthesis in thymocytes in vitro. The action of growth hormone on thymocytes is specific, since thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and heat-inactivated growth hormone are not effective. BGH has also a beneficial action on the regeneration of the thymus and spleen in starved rats.