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V V Vax, M Gueorguiev, I I Dedov, A B Grossman, and M Korbonits

The oncogenes and/or tumour suppressor genes which may be involved in the transformation process for the vast majority of pituitary tumours remain unknown. There is substantial evidence for derangement of cell cycle control in such tumours, but cell cycle protein mutations identified in other human malignancies are restricted to only a very small subset of sporadic pituitary neoplasms. Krüppel-like factors are DNA-binding transcriptional regulators with diverse effects including the upregulation of the cell cycle protein p21(WAF1/CIP1). It has been reported that the Krüppel-like transcription factor 6 (KLF6) gene is mutated in a proportion (15-55%) of human prostate cancers, and more recent data are emerging regarding mutated KLF6 in nasopharyngeal carcinomas, astrocytoid gliomas and colorectal cancer. We therefore speculated that other tumours such as pituitary adenomas might also harbour such mutations that may be involved in the control of cell proliferation in the pituitary. The aim of the current study was thus to analyse the KLF6 gene for mutations in sporadic pituitary tumours. We analysed 60 pituitary adenomas (15 GH-, four ACTH-, two PRL-secreting and 39 non-functioning) with direct sequence analysis of exons 2 and 3 of the KLF6 gene, the region where most of the previously described mutations are located. Three non-functioning pituitary adenomas of the 60 pituitary tumours (5%) had two identical sequence changes in exon 2 (missense mutation Val165Met, 523G-->A and a silent substitution in Ser77Ser codon 261C-->T). Analysis of genomic DNA extracted from peripheral lymphocytes in one patient confirmed these changes to be present in the germline and they therefore probably represent polymorphisms, although we cannot exclude the possibility that these are predisposing germline mutations. We conclude that mutations of the KLF6 gene are unlikely to play an important role in sporadic pituitary tumorigenesis.

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Graeme B Bolger, Mariana F Bizzi, Sergio V Pinheiro, Giampaolo Trivellin, Lisa Smoot, Mary-Ann Accavitti, Márta Korbonits, and Antonio Ribeiro-Oliveira Jr

PDE4 cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases regulate cAMP abundance in cells and therefore regulate numerous processes, including cell growth and differentiation. The rat PDE4A5 isoform (human homolog PDE4A4) interacts with the AIP protein (also called XAP2 or ARA-9). Germline mutations in AIP occur in approximately 20% of patients with Familial Isolated Pituitary Adenoma (FIPA) and 20% of childhood-onset simplex somatotroph adenomas. We therefore examined the protein expression of PDE4A4 and the closely related isoform PDE4A8 in normal human pituitary tissue and in pituitary adenomas. PDE4A4 had low expression in normal pituitary but was significantly overexpressed in somatotroph, lactotroph, corticotroph and clinically nonfunctioning gonadotroph adenomas (P<0.0001 for all subtypes). Likewise, PDE4A8 was expressed in normal pituitary and was also significantly overexpressed in the adenoma subtypes (P<0.0001 for all). Among the different adenoma subtypes, corticotroph and lactotroph adenomas were the highest and lowest expressed for PDE4A4, respectively, whereas the opposite was observed for PDE4A8. Naturally occurring oncogenic variants in AIP were shown by a two-hybrid assay to disrupt the ability of AIP to interact with PDE4A5. A reverse two-hybrid screen identified numerous additional variants in the tetratricopeptide repeat (TPR) region of AIP that also disrupted its ability to interact with PDE4A5. The expression of PDE4A4 and PDE4A8 in normal pituitary, their increased expression in adenomatous pituitary cells where AIP is meant to participate, and the disruption of the PDE4A4–AIP interaction by AIP mutants may play a role in pituitary tumorigenesis.

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W E Farrell

Pituitary tumours are common intracranial neoplasms that cause significant morbidity through mass effects and/or the inappropriate secretion of pituitary hormones. Despite a considerable literature detailing potential pathogenic changes in these tumours, their aetiology remains largely unresolved. Recent studies have employed genome-wide profiling towards the identification of novel genes and pathways that are inappropriately expressed or regulated in this tumour type. The techniques employed vary in their complexity and interpretation; however, many of the findings from these types of studies have identified novel genes with potential and, in some cases, proven roles in pituitary tumorigenesis. These studies include comparative genomic hybridization, whole genome-wide allelotyping and methodologies for identification of novel genes associated with epigenetic silencing. In addition, differential display methodologies have been instrumental in the identification of transcripts inappropriately expressed including, pituitary tumour transforming gene, growth arrest and DNA damage-inducible protein (GADD)45γ and a maternal expressed gene 3 isoform, which in some cases have proven roles in pituitary tumorigenesis. Although few studies of whole genome transcript analysis, as determined by microarray or gene-chip technologies, are reported, these studies of human pituitary, in some cases combined with proteomics, are yielding useful data. In addition, these types of investigation have been applied to several animal models of pituitary tumorigenesis, and in these cases novel genes are highlighted as showing significant change. The identification of the initiating events responsible for the transformation of a normal pituitary cell into one with unrestrained proliferative capacity has so far eluded us. No doubt, these new technologies allowing an essentially unbiased genome-wide analysis, perhaps in combination with animal models that display a preceding hyperplasia, will allow us to identify genes critical to tumour evolution and progression.

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Robert C Fowkes and George Vlotides

Angiogenic markers in pituitary adenomas remain enigmatic in terms of their function in tumorigenesis, despite being upregulated by the normal physiological trigger of hypoxia. In this issue of Endocrine-Related Cancer, Shan et al. report that the novel RWD domain containing protein, RWD-containing sumoylation enhancer, is expressed in human pituitary adenomas and plays a pivotal role in regulating the hypoxia-inducible factor 1α–vascular endothelial growth factor response to hypoxia.

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B Shan, J Gerez, M Haedo, M Fuertes, M Theodoropoulou, M Buchfelder, M Losa, G K Stalla, E Arzt, and U Renner

The recently cloned small RWD-domain containing protein RSUME was shown to increase protein levels of hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α). The latter is the oxygen-regulated subunit of HIF-1, the most important transcription factor of the cellular adaptive processes to hypoxic conditions. It is also a major regulator of vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), which is critically involved in the complex process of tumour neovascularisation. In this study, the expression and role of RSUME in pituitary tumours was studied. We found that RSUME mRNA was up-regulated in pituitary adenomas and significantly correlated with HIF-1α mRNA levels. Hypoxia (1% O2) or treatment with hypoxia-mimicking CoCl2 enhanced RSUME and HIF-1α expression, induced translocation of HIF-1α to the nuclei and stimulated VEGF-A production both in pituitary tumour cell lines and primary human pituitary adenoma cell cultures. When RSUME expression was specifically down-regulated by siRNA, the CoCl2-induced increase VEGF-A secretion was strongly reduced which was shown to be a consequence of the RSUME knockdown-associated reduction of HIF-1α synthesis. Thus, RSUME plays an important role in initiating pituitary tumour neovascularisation through regulating HIF-1α levels and subsequent VEGF-A production and may therefore be critically involved in pituitary adenoma progression.

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Alexander Gorshtein, Hadara Rubinfeld, Efrat Kendler, Marily Theodoropoulou, Vesna Cerovac, Günter K Stalla, Zvi R Cohen, Moshe Hadani, and Ilan Shimon

The effect of mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors on pituitary tumors is unknown. Akt overexpression was demonstrated in pituitary adenomas, which may render them sensitive to the anti-proliferative effects of these drugs. The objective of the study was to evaluate the anti-proliferative efficacy of the mTOR inhibitor, rapamycin, and its orally bioavailable analog RAD001 on the GH-secreting pituitary tumor GH3 and MtT/S cells and in human GH-secreting pituitary adenomas (GH-omas) in primary cell cultures. Treatment with rapamycin or RAD001 significantly decreased the number of viable cells and cell proliferation in a dose- and time-dependent manner. This was reflected by decreased phosphorylation levels of the downstream mTOR target p70S6K. Rapamycin treatment of GH3 cells induced G0/G1 cell cycle arrest. In other tumor cell types, this was attributed to a decrease in cyclin D1 levels. However, rapamycin did not affect cyclin D1 protein levels in GH3 cells. By contrast, it decreased cyclin D3 and p21/CIP, which stabilizes cyclin D/cyclin-dependent kinase 4 (cdk4) complexes. Rapamycin inhibited FCS-induced retinoblastoma phosphorylation and subsequent E2F-transcriptional activity. In response to decreased E2F activity, the expression of the E2F-regulated genes cyclin E and cdk2 was reduced. Our results showed that mTOR inhibitors potently inhibit pituitary cell proliferation, suggesting that mTOR inhibition may be a promising anti-proliferative therapy for pituitary adenomas. This therapeutic manipulation may have beneficial effects particularly for patients harboring invasive pituitary tumors resistant to current treatments.

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Yong Lin, Xiaofei Jiang, Ye Shen, Min Li, Huili Ma, Mingzhao Xing, and Yuan Lu

Genetic alterations in the PIK3CA gene of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT pathway have been found in many human tumors, but they have not been explored in pituitary tumors. We undertook the present study to explore mutations and amplifications of the PIK3CA gene in pituitary tumors. DNA sequencing and real-time quantitative PCR were used to examine mutations and amplifications respectively, on genomic DNA samples isolated from 353 cases of pituitary tumors, and immunohistostaining was used to assess PIK3CA expression. About 8 out of 91 (9%) invasive pituitary tumors versus 0 out of 262 (0%) noninvasive tumors were found to harbor somatic mutations in exons 9 and 20 of the PIK3CA gene (P<0.001), and the mutation was associated with increased disease recurrence. Genomic PIK3CA amplifications (defined as ≥4 copies) were observed in both invasive and noninvasive tumors, with a prevalence of around 20–40% in various types of pituitary tumors. PIK3CA protein overexpression was observed in cases with high PIK3CA copy number. RAS mutations were also examined and found in 6 out of the 91 (7%) invasive tumors. PIK3CA amplifications were mutually exclusive with PIK3CA or RAS mutations (P<0.001). This study demonstrated for the first time relatively common PIK3CA mutations and amplifications as well as RAS mutations and their tendency of mutual exclusivity in pituitary tumors. The data provide strong genetic evidence supporting a role of the PI3K/AKT signaling pathway in the tumorigenesis of pituitary tumors, particularly the invasive types.

Free access

Juan Pablo Petiti, Liliana del Valle Sosa, Florencia Picech, Gabriela Deisi Moyano Crespo, Jean Zander Arevalo Rojas, Pablo Anibal Pérez, Carolina Beatriz Guido, Carolina Leimgruber, María Eugenia Sabatino, Pedro García, Verónica Bengio, Francisco Roque Papalini, Paula Estario, Celina Berhard, Marcos Villarreal, Silvina Gutiérrez, Ana Lucía De Paul, Jorge Humberto Mukdsi, and Alicia Inés Torres

In pituitary adenomas, early recurrences and resistance to conventional pharmacotherapies are common, but the mechanisms involved are still not understood. The high expression of epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2)/extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK1/2) signal observed in human pituitary adenomas, together with the low levels of the antimitogenic transforming growth factor beta receptor 2 (TBR2), encouraged us to evaluate the effect of the specific HER2 inhibition with trastuzumab on experimental pituitary tumor cell growth and its effect on the antiproliferative response to TGFB1. Trastuzumab decreased the pituitary tumor growth as well as the expression of ERK1/2 and the cell cycle regulators CCND1 and CDK4. The HER2/ERK1/2 pathway is an attractive therapeutic target, but its intricate relations with other signaling modulators still need to be unraveled. Thus, we investigated possible cross-talk with TGFB signaling, which has not yet been studied in pituitary tumors. In tumoral GH3 cells, co-incubation with trastuzumab and TGFB1 significantly decreased cell proliferation, an effect accompanied by a reduction in ERK1/2 phosphorylation, an increase of SMAD2/3 activation. In addition, through immunoprecipitation assays, a diminution of SMAD2/3-ERK1/2 and an increase SMAD2/3–TGFBR1 interactions were observed when cells were co-incubated with trastuzumab and TGFB1. These findings indicate that blocking HER2 by trastuzumab inhibited pituitary tumor growth and modulated HER2/ERK1/2 signaling and consequently the anti-mitogenic TGFB1/TBRs/SMADs cascade. The imbalance between HER2 and TGFBRs expression observed in human adenomas and the response to trastuzumab on experimental tumor growth may make the HER2/ERK1/2 pathway an attractive target for future pituitary adenoma therapy.

Free access

G Mantovani, D Treppiedi, E Giardino, R Catalano, F Mangili, P Vercesi, M Arosio, A Spada, and E Peverelli

Although generally benign, pituitary tumors are frequently locally invasive, with reduced success of neurosurgery and unresponsive to pharmacological treatment with somatostatin or dopamine analogues. The molecular basis of the different biological behavior of pituitary tumors are still poorly identified, but a body of work now suggests that the activity of specific cytoskeleton proteins is a key factor regulating both the invasiveness and drug resistance of these tumors. This review recapitulates the experimental evidence supporting a role for the actin-binding protein filamin A (FLNA) in the regulation of somatostatin and dopamine receptors expression and signaling in pituitary tumors, thus in determining the responsiveness to currently used drugs, somatostatin analogues and dopamine receptor type 2 agonists. Regarding the regulation of invasive behavior of pituitary tumoral cells, we bring evidence to the role of the actin-severing protein cofilin, whose activation status may be modulated by dopaminergic and somatostatinergic drugs, through FLNA involvement. Molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of FLNA expression and function in pituitary tumors will also be discussed.

Free access

Eric Monsalves, Kyle Juraschka, Toru Tateno, Sameer Agnihotri, Sylvia L Asa, Shereen Ezzat, and Gelareh Zadeh

Pituitary adenomas are common intracranial neoplasms. Patients with these tumors exhibit a wide range of clinically challenging problems, stemming either from results of sellar mass effect in pituitary macroadenoma or the diverse effects of aberrant hormone production by adenoma cells. While some patients are cured/controlled by surgical resection and/or medical therapy, a proportion of patients exhibit tumors that are refractory to current modalities. New therapeutic approaches are needed for these patients. Activation of the AKT/phophotidylinositide-3-kinase pathway, including mTOR activation, is common in human neoplasia, and a number of therapeutic approaches are being employed to neutralize activation of this pathway in human cancer. This review examines the role of this pathway in pituitary tumors with respect to tumor biology and its potential role as a therapeutic target.