The effect of recombinant porcine growth hormone (pGH) treatment on pituitary function was evaluated in young pigs. Piglets received intraperitoneal recombinant pGH implants (0.5 mg/d sustained release) or vehicle implants beginning at 3 d of age. Ten piglets were sacrificed at 4 and 6 wk of age (five piglets/treatment group) for the collection of pituitary glands, blood, and liver tissue. Blood samples also were drawn at 3 and 12 d of age. Serum concentrations of GH, prolactin (PRL), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and IGF-2 were evaluated. Levels of IGF-1 and IGF-2 mRNA were determined in liver samples. Treatment with GH increased circulating levels of GH and IGF-1 (P < 0.01), but not PRL, TSH, or IGF-2. Hepatic IGF-1, but not IGF-2, mRNA levels were increased by pGH (P < 0.001). Cultured pituitary cells from each animal were challenged with 0.1, 1, and 10 nM GH-releasing hormone (GHRH); 2 nM 8-Br-cAMP; or 100 nM phorbol myristate acetate. The release of GH from cultured pituitary cells was stimulated by all secretagogues (P < 0.001). The secretion of GH, but not PRL or TSH, in culture was inhibited by previous in vivo GH treatment (P < 0.001). Similarly, cellular GH, but not PRL or TSH, content was lower in the GH-implant group (P = 0.005). Cell cultures from 6-wk-old piglets secreted more GH, but not PRL or TSH, than cultures from 4-wk-old piglets (P < 0.05). Likewise, cellular GH, but not PRL or TSH, content was greatest in cultures from 6-wk-old animals (P = 0.002). Piglet growth was not affected by exogenous GH treatment (P = 0.67). These results demonstrate that exogenous pGH treatment selectively down-regulates somatotroph function in young pigs.