Immunonegative "Null Cell" Adenomas and Gonadotropin (Gn) Subunit (SUs) Immunopositive Adenomas Share Frequent Expression of Multiple Transcription Factors

Tokai University, Hiratuka, Kanagawa, Japan
Endocrine Pathology (Impact Factor: 1.76). 02/2006; 17(1):35-43. DOI: 10.1385/EP:17:1:35
Source: PubMed


The differentiation of pituitary cells and human pituitary adenomas follow three cell lineages: GH-PRL-TSH, ACTH, and FSH/LH, which are regulated by a combination of various transcription factors and co-factors. We have used RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry to show that immunonegative, "null cell" adenomas are equipped with multiple transcription factors and co-factors. The "null cell" adenomas showed similar frequencies of transcription factors as did the gonadotropin subunit (GnSU)-positive adenomas, with the exception that there were fewer instances of SF1 in the former. We speculate, therefore, that null cell adenomas and GnSU-positive adenomas share common molecular mechanisms in functional differentiation, even though the former do not produce hormones. From the high frequency of various transcription factors, we also speculate that both null cell adenomas and GnSU-positive adenomas are derived from "committed" pituitary progenitor stem cells. The questions, why a certain proportion of these pituitary tumor groups lack hormone production and why they are molecularly more committed to Gn transcription, remain to be further investigated.

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    ABSTRACT: The functional differentiation of pituitary cells and adenomas follows the combination of transcription factors and co-factors in three cell lineages [growth hormone-prolactin-thyroid-stimulating hormone lineage, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)/pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) lineage, and follicular stimulating hormone (FSH)/luteinizing hormone (LH) lineage], which include Pit-1, GATA-2, SF-1, NeuroD1/beta2, Tpit, ERalpha, and others. Only rarely are hormones from different lineages co-expressed in the same adenoma cells. Most corticotroph cell adenomas belonging to the ACTH/POMC lineage are mono-hormonal. In our study of 89 corticotroph cell adenomas, 5 cases expressed both ACTH and alpha-subunit; these adenomas did not express any other anterior pituitary hormones or subunits. To clarify the mechanism involved, we studied the transcription factors that regulate pituitary cell differentiation. NeuroD1 and T-pit, markers of the ACTH/POMC lineage, and SF-1 and DAX-1, related to the LH/FSH cell lineage were expressed in all cases. GATA2, a synergistic factor in the gonadotroph cell lineage with SF-1, was also expressed in three of five cases. As ACTH and alpha-subunit are the earliest hormones to appear during development, we speculate that these particular adenomas are derived from committed ACTH progenitor cells. The molecular process governing functional differentiation of these adenomas requires further investigation.
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