Gene expression in living cells is highly dynamic, but temporal patterns of gene expression in intact tissues are largely unknown. The mammalian pituitary gland comprises several intermingled cell types, organised as interdigitated networks that interact functionally to generate co-ordinated hormone secretion. Live-cell imaging was used to quantify patterns of reporter gene expression in dispersed lactotrophic cells or intact pituitary tissue from bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) transgenic rats in which a large prolactin genomic fragment directed expression of luciferase or destabilised enhanced green fluorescent protein (d2EGFP). Prolactin promoter activity in transgenic pituitaries varied with time across different regions of the gland. Although amplitude of transcriptional responses differed, all regions of the gland displayed similar overall patterns of reporter gene expression over a 50-hour period, implying overall coordination of cellular behaviour. By contrast, enzymatically dispersed pituitary cell cultures showed unsynchronised fluctuations of promoter activity amongst different cells, suggesting that transcriptional patterns were constrained by tissue architecture. Short-term, high resolution, single cell analyses in prolactin-d2EGFP transgenic pituitary slice preparations showed varying transcriptional patterns with little correlation between adjacent cells. Together, these data suggest that pituitary tissue comprises a series of cell ensembles, which individually display a variety of patterns of short-term stochastic behaviour, but together yield long-range and long-term coordinated behaviour.