Using a series of oligonucleotide probes (18-21 mers) specific for members of the rat kallikrein/tonin (arginyl-esteropeptidase) gene family (PS, S1, S2, S3, K1, P1), we have shown by Northern blot analysis that all six genes are expressed in the submandibular gland (SMG), with PS (true kallikrein) the most abundant in both male and female rats. Though female levels of PS mRNA are similar to that in the male, levels of mRNA from both the kallikrein-like (S1, K1, P1) and tonin (S2)/tonin-like (S3) genes are all substantially lower in the female than in the male rat. In contrast with the oestrogen dependence of anterior pituitary kallikrein (PS) gene expression, oestrogen administration (6 μg/day for 8 days) to castrate male or female rats is without effect on PS or S1, S2, S3, K1, P1 mRNA levels in the SMG. These findings suggest a tissue-specificity in the oestrogen regulation of true kallikrein gene expression in the two tissues. In intact male rats, oestrogen administration lowers SMG levels of S1, S2, S3, K1, and P1 but not PS mRNA to castrate levels, presumably by suppression of the pituitary/gonadal axis, consistent with the previously reported androgen dependence of SMG expression of these genes with the exception of PS.
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