Growth hormone (GH) is secreted in the anterior pituitary gland by the somatotroph cells. Secretion is regulated by growth hormone releasing hormone (GHRH) and somatostatin. Morever, GH secretagogues (GHS) can exert a considerable effect on GH secretion. In order to determine the effects of chronic treatment with the GHS Ipamorelin on the composition of the somatotroph cell population and on somatotroph GH content, an in vitro analysis was performed of the percentage of somatotroph cells (% of total), the ratio of different GH cell types (strongly/weakly-staining) and individual GH content, in pituitary cell cultures obtained from young female rats receiving Ipamorelin over 21 days (Ipamorelin group) and the effects were compared with those of GHRH (GHRH group) or saline (saline group). The ultrastructure of somatotroph cells did not change, but the volume density of secretion granules was increased (P<0.05) by previous in vivo Ipamorelin or GHRH treatment. In 3-day basal pituitary cell monolayer cultures, the percentage of somatotroph cells showed no modifications between groups, nor was there any change in the ratio of strongly/weakly immunostaining GH cells. In the Ipamorelin group alone, in vitro treatment with Ipamorelin (10(-8) M), or GHRP 6 (10(-8) M), or GHRH (10(-8) M) for 4 hours, increased the percentage of somatotroph cells, without modifying the ratio of strongly/weakly immunostained GH cells. Basal intracellular GH content in somatotroph cells over 4 hours was lower in the Ipamorelin group and the GHRH group than in the saline group. Only in the Ipamorelin group did Ipamorelin (10(-8) M), GHRP 6 (10(-8) M) and GHRH (10(-8) M) prompt increased intracellular GH content. These data suggest that, at least in the young female rat, the GHS Ipamorelin is able to exert a dynamic control effect on the somatotroph population and on GH hormone content.