Isolated autosomal dominant growth hormone deficiency: stimulating mutant GH-1 gene expression drives GH-1 splice-site selection, cell proliferation, and apoptosis

Endocrinology. 2007 Jan;148(1):45-53. doi: 10.1210/en.2006-0772. Epub 2006 Oct 12.


The majority of mutations that cause isolated GH deficiency type II (IGHD II) affect splicing of GH-1 transcripts and produce a dominant-negative GH isoform lacking exon 3 resulting in a 17.5-kDa isoform, which further leads to disruption of the GH secretory pathway. A clinical variability in the severity of the IGHD II phenotype depending on the GH-1 gene alteration has been reported, and in vitro and transgenic animal data suggest that the onset and severity of the phenotype relates to the proportion of 17.5-kDa produced. The removal of GH in IGHD creates a positive feedback loop driving more GH expression, which may itself increase 17.5-kDa isoform productions from alternate splice sites in the mutated GH-1 allele. In this study, we aimed to test this idea by comparing the impact of stimulated expression by glucocorticoids on the production of different GH isoforms from wild-type (wt) and mutant GH-1 genes, relying on the glucocorticoid regulatory element within intron 1 in the GH-1 gene. AtT-20 cells were transfected with wt-GH or mutated GH-1 variants (5'IVS-3 + 2-bp T->C; 5'IVS-3 + 6 bp T->C; ISEm1: IVS-3 + 28 G->A) known to cause clinical IGHD II of varying severity. Cells were stimulated with 1 and 10 mum dexamethasone (DEX) for 24 h, after which the relative amounts of GH-1 splice variants were determined by semiquantitative and quantitative (TaqMan) RT-PCR. In the absence of DEX, only around 1% wt-GH-1 transcripts were the 17.5-kDa isoform, whereas the three mutant GH-1 variants produced 29, 39, and 78% of the 17.5-kDa isoform. DEX stimulated total GH-1 gene transcription from all constructs. Notably, however, DEX increased the amount of 17.5-kDa GH isoform relative to the 22- and 20-kDa isoforms produced from the mutated GH-1 variants, but not from wt-GH-1. This DEX-induced enhancement of 17.5-kDa GH isoform production, up to 100% in the most severe case, was completely blocked by the addition of RU486. In other studies, we measured cell proliferation rates, annexin V staining, and DNA fragmentation in cells transfected with the same GH-1 constructs. The results showed that that the 5'IVS-3 + 2-bp GH-1 gene mutation had a more severe impact on those measures than the splice site mutations within 5'IVS-3 + 6 bp or ISE +28, in line with the clinical severity observed with these mutations. Our findings that the proportion of 17.5-kDa produced from mutant GH-1 alleles increases with increased drive for gene expression may help to explain the variable onset progression, and severity observed in IGHD II.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Exons / genetics
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology
  • Growth Disorders / genetics*
  • Growth Disorders / physiopathology
  • Human Growth Hormone / deficiency
  • Human Growth Hormone / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Mutation / physiology
  • Phenotype
  • Pituitary Gland / cytology*
  • RNA Splice Sites / physiology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transcription, Genetic / drug effects
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology
  • Transfection


  • Glucocorticoids
  • RNA Splice Sites
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • Dexamethasone