Existence of long-lasting experience-dependent plasticity in endocrine cell networks

Nat Commun. 2012 Jan 3;3:605. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1612.


Experience-dependent plasticity of cell and tissue function is critical for survival by allowing organisms to dynamically adjust physiological processes in response to changing or harsh environmental conditions. Despite the conferred evolutionary advantage, it remains unknown whether emergent experience-dependent properties are present in cell populations organized as networks within endocrine tissues involved in regulating body-wide homeostasis. Here we show, using lactation to repeatedly activate a specific endocrine cell network in situ in the mammalian pituitary, that templates of prior demand are permanently stored through stimulus-evoked alterations to the extent and strength of cell-cell connectivity. Strikingly, following repeat stimulation, evolved population behaviour leads to improved tissue output. As such, long-lasting experience-dependent plasticity is an important feature of endocrine cell networks and underlies functional adaptation of hormone release.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Animals
  • Calcium / chemistry
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cell Communication
  • Endocrine System / physiology*
  • Female
  • Homeostasis
  • Lactation
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Photons
  • Pituitary Gland / physiology*


  • Calcium