The effects of estradiol (E(2)) on growth hormone (GH) production was investigated in gonad-intact female goldfish. It was first necessary to generate a specific antibody for use in immunocytochemistry, Western, and dot-blot analyses of GH production. To accomplish this, grass carp GH (gcGH) cDNA was cloned by the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and expressed in Echerichia coli and a specific polyclonal antibody to recombinant gcGH was generated in the rabbit. In Western blot, the anti-gcGH antibody specifically immunoreacted with recombinant gcGH, purified natural common carp GH, and with a single 21.5-kDa GH form from pituitary extracts of grass carp, common carp, goldfish, and zebrafish but not salmon, trout, or tilapia. Intraperitoneal injection of the recombinant gcGH enhanced the growth rates of juvenile common carp demonstrating biological activity of this GH preparation. Electron microscopic studies showed that the anti-gcGH-I antibody specifically reacted with GH localized in the secretory granules of the goldfish somatotroph. Using anti-gcGH-I in a dot-blot assay, it was found that in vivo implantation of solid silastic pellets containing E(2) (100 mu g/g body weight for 5 days) increased pituitary GH content by 150% in female goldfish. In a second, independent study employing a previously characterized anticommon carp GH antibody for radioimmunoassay, it was found that E(2) increased pituitary GH content by 170% and serum GH levels by approximately 350%. The E(2)-induced hypersecretion of GH and increase in pituitary GH levels was not associated with changes in steady-state pituitary GH mRNA levels, suggesting that this sex steroid may enhance GH synthesis at the posttranscriptional or translational level. Previous observations indicate that GH can stimulate ovarian E(2) production. The present results show that E(2) can in turn stimulate GH production, indicating the existence of a novel pituitary GH-ovarian feedback system in goldfish. (C) 1997 Academic Press.