Stimulation of supranormal growth in prepubertal, adult plateaued, and hypophysectomized female rats by large doses of rat growth hormone: physiological effects and adverse consequences

Endocrinology. 1987 May;120(5):1963-75. doi: 10.1210/endo-120-5-1963.


A supranormal rate of growth in intact, prepubertal, 26-day-old female rats was evoked by administration of large doses of highly purified rat GH (rGH). In response to daily doses of 1 and 5 mg/rat (13.6 mg/kg BW and 68 mg/kg BW), sc, for 20 days, body weight (BW) gain increased 51% and 73%, and skeletal growth increased 27% and 40%, respectively. Serum rGH in treated rats rose as much as 69-fold greater than that of controls. Feed efficiency, the ratio of weight gained to feed consumed, increased from 19.8% to 32.0%. This rGH treatment depleted pituitary GH content as much as 58% and caused hepatomegaly. These effects, as well as the accelerated growth rate, reverted to normal after cessation of rGH treatment. Onset of puberty in rGH-treated rats was delayed an average of 2.7 days. A similar stimulatory effect on BW gain, but not skeletal growth, as well as depletion of pituitary GH content, and hepatomegaly, was elicited by rGH treatment in adult, plateaued female rats. These effects in plateaued rats reverted to normal after cessation of GH treatment, and 50% of the body weight gain was rapidly lost. The largest dose of rGH used, 5 mg/day, was apparently toxic, resulting in a 20% higher mortality rate in treated prepubertal and plateaued female rats. Antibody formation was not the cause of the toxicity, since antibodies against rGH were undetectable at the lowest dilutions of serum tested. Serum rat insulin-like growth factor I (RIA), 3.5 U/ml in untreated intact prepubertal rats, increased to 4.7 and 5.0 U/ml, respectively, after 20 days of rGH treatment. In hypophysectomized rats, serum rat insulin-like growth factor I (RIA), undetectable in controls, was increased to 1.63 U/ml after 14 days treatment with 1 mg rGH/day. This study demonstrates that greater than normal growth can be stimulated in normal female rats by administration of large doses of homologous GH, but at the risk of serious adverse effects. Possible implications for the administration of GH to non-GH-deficient children, to promote taller stature, are clear.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Female
  • Growth / drug effects*
  • Growth Hormone / metabolism
  • Growth Hormone / pharmacology*
  • Growth Hormone / toxicity
  • Hypophysectomy*
  • Liver / anatomy & histology
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Sexual Maturation / drug effects
  • Somatomedins / blood
  • Spleen / anatomy & histology
  • Tail / growth & development


  • Somatomedins
  • Growth Hormone