The in vivo effects of epidermal growth factor (EGF) on pancreatic growth and digestive enzyme concentrations were compared with the actions of the pancreatic secretagogue caerulein in the adult rat. EGF (10 µg/kg BW) did not alter pancreatic weight or protein content. However, this concentration of EGF inhibited [3H]thymidine incorporation into DNA by 44%, decreased DNA content by 20%, and increased the concentrations of amylase, chymotrypsinogen, and protein by 106%, 232%, and 42%, respectively. Pancreatic acini prepared from EGF-treated rats exhibited a characteristic secretory response to caerulein that was superimposable to that obtained in acini from saline-treated rats. In both groups of acini halfmaximal and maximal stimulation of amylase release occurred at approximately 5 pM and 50 pM caerulein, respectively. In contrast to EGF, caerulein (1 µg/kg BW) increased pancreatic weight by 29% and protein content by 59%, and enhanced [3H] thymidine incorporation into DNA by 70%. Although caerulein increased the concentrations of pancreatic amylase and chymotrypsinogen by 38% and 297%, respectively, pancreatic acini prepared from caerulein-treated rats were less sensitive to the actions of caerulein in vitro when compared with acini from control rats. Indeed, the EC50 was shift from 4.8 pM to 9.8 pM after 4 days of treatment. EGF potentiated the actions of caerulein on pancreatic weight, protein content, and chymotrypsinogen concentration, and prevented the caerulein-induced alteration in the secretory responsiveness of the acinar cell. Conversely, caerulein reversed the inhibitory effect of EGF on thymidine incorporation. These findings suggest that EGF may modulate the trophic effects of certain gastrointestinal hormones, and may participate in the regulation of pancreatic exocrine function in vivo.
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