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Freya Mertens, Lies Gremeaux, Jianghai Chen, Qiuli Fu, Christophe Willems, Heleen Roose, Olivier Govaere, Tania Roskams, Carolina Cristina, Damasia Becú-Villalobos, Mark Jorissen, Vincent Vander Poorten, Marie Bex, Johannes van Loon, and Hugo Vankelecom

Pituitary adenomas cause significant endocrine and mass-related morbidity. Little is known about the mechanisms that underlie pituitary tumor pathogenesis. In the present study, we searched for a side population (SP) in pituitary tumors representing cells with high efflux capacity and potentially enriched for tumor stem cells (TSCs). Human pituitary adenomas contain a SP irrespective of hormonal phenotype. This adenoma SP, as well as the purified SP (pSP) that is depleted from endothelial and immune cells, is enriched for cells that express ‘tumor stemness’ markers and signaling pathways, including epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT)-linked factors. Pituitary adenomas were found to contain self-renewing sphere-forming cells, considered to be a property of TSCs. These sphere-initiating cells were recovered in the pSP. Because benign pituitary adenomas do not grow in vitro and have failed to expand in immunodeficient mice, the pituitary tumor cell line AtT20 was further used. We identified a SP in this cell line and found it to be more tumorigenic than the non-SP ‘main population’. Of the two EMT regulatory pathways tested, the inhibition of chemokine (C-X-C motif) receptor 4 (CXCR4) signaling reduced EMT-associated cell motility in vitro as well as xenograft tumor growth, whereas the activation of TGFβ had no effect. The human adenoma pSP also showed upregulated expression of the pituitary stem cell marker SOX2. Pituitaries from dopamine receptor D2 knockout (Drd2 −/−) mice that bear prolactinomas contain more pSP, Sox2+, and colony-forming cells than WT glands. In conclusion, we detected a SP in pituitary tumors and identified TSC-associated characteristics. The present study adds new elements to the unraveling of pituitary tumor pathogenesis and may lead to the identification of new therapeutic targets.

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A Raitila, M Georgitsi, A Karhu, K Tuppurainen, M J Mäkinen, K Birkenkamp-Demtröder, K Salmenkivi, T F Ørntoft, J Arola, V Launonen, P Vahteristo, and L A Aaltonen

Germline mutations in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) gene were recently observed in patients with pituitary adenoma predisposition (PAP). Though AIP mutation-positive individuals with prolactin-, mixed growth hormone/prolactin-, and ACTH-producing pituitary adenomas as well as non-secreting pituitary adenomas have been reported, most mutation-positive patients have had growth hormone-producing adenomas diagnosed at relatively young age. Pituitary adenomas are also component tumors of some familial endocrine neoplasia syndromes such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) and Carney complex (CNC). Genes underlying MEN1 and CNC are rarely mutated in sporadic pituitary adenomas, but more often in other lesions contributing to these two syndromes. Thus far, the occurrence of somatic AIP mutations has not been studied in endocrine tumors other than pituitary adenomas. Here, we have analyzed 32 pituitary adenomas and 79 other tumors of the endocrine system for somatic AIP mutations by direct sequencing. No somatic mutations were identified. However, two out of nine patients with prolactin-producing adenoma were shown to harbor a Finnish founder mutation (Q14X) with a complete loss of the wild-type allele in the tumors. These results are in agreement with previous studies in that prolactin-producing adenomas are component tumors in PAP. The data also support the previous finding that somatic AIP mutations are not common in pituitary adenomas and suggest that such mutations are rare in other endocrine tumors as well.

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M Theodoropoulou, I Cavallari, L Barzon, D M D'Agostino, T Ferro, T Arzberger, Y Grübler, L Schaaf, M Losa, F Fallo, V Ciminale, G K Stalla, and U Pagotto

Pituitary adenomas represent one of the key features of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1. The gene involved in this syndrome (MEN1) is a putative tumor suppressor, that codes for a 610-amino acid nuclear protein termed 'menin'. Analyses of sporadic pituitary adenomas have so far failed to reveal MEN1 mutations or defects in MEN1 transcription in these tumors. In the present study we detected menin protein expression in a panel of normal and tumoral pituitary tissues, using a monoclonal antibody against the carboxy-terminus of menin. In the normal human pituitary gland, strong nuclear staining for menin was detectable in the majority of the endocrine cells of the anterior lobe, without a clear association with a particular hormone-producing type. In sporadic pituitary adenomas, menin expression was variable, with a high percentage of cases demonstrating a significant decrease in menin immunoreactivity when compared with the normal pituitary. Interestingly, metastatic tissues derived from one pituitary carcinoma had no detectable menin levels. Altogether, our data provide the first information regarding the status of menin expression in human normal and neoplastic pituitary as determined by immunohistochemistry (IHC).

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Vladimir Vasilev, Adrian F Daly, Giampaolo Trivellin, Constantine A Stratakis, Sabina Zacharieva, and Albert Beckers

Familial isolated pituitary adenoma (FIPA) is one of the most frequent conditions associated with an inherited presentation of pituitary tumors. FIPA can present with pituitary adenomas of any secretory/non-secretory type. Mutations in the gene for the aryl-hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) have been identified in approximately 20% of FIPA families and are the most frequent cause (29%) of pituitary gigantism. Pituitary tumors in FIPA are larger, occur at a younger age and display more aggressive characteristics and evolution than sporadic adenomas. This aggressiveness is especially marked in FIPA kindreds with AIP mutations. Special attention should be paid to young patients with pituitary gigantism and/or macroadenomas, as AIP mutations are prevalent in these groups. Duplications on chromosome Xq26.3 involving the gene GPR101 lead to X-linked acrogigantism (X-LAG), a syndrome of pituitary gigantism beginning in early childhood; three kindreds with X-LAG have presented in the setting of FIPA. Management of pituitary adenomas in the setting of FIPA, AIP mutations and GPR101 duplications is often more complex than in sporadic disease due to early onset disease, aggressive tumor growth and resistance to medical therapy.

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Chiara Villa, Maria Stefania Lagonigro, Flavia Magri, Maria Koziak, Marie-Lise Jaffrain-Rea, Raja Brauner, Jerome Bouligand, Marie Pierre Junier, Federico Di Rocco, Christian Sainte-Rose, Albert Beckers, François Xavier Roux, Adrian F Daly, and Luca Chiovato

Mutations of the aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) gene are associated with pituitary adenomas that usually occur as familial isolated pituitary adenomas (FIPA). Detailed pathological and tumor genetic data on AIP mutation-related pituitary adenomas are not sufficient. Non-identical twin females presented as adolescents to the emergency department with severe progressive headache caused by large pituitary macroadenomas require emergency neurosurgery; one patient had incipient pituitary apoplexy. Post-surgically, the patients were found to have silent somatotrope adenomas on pathological examination. Furthermore, the light microscopic, immunohistochemical, and electron microscopic studies demonstrated tumors of virtually identical characteristics. The adenomas were accompanied by multiple areas of pituitary hyperplasia, which stained positively for GH, indicating somatotrope hyperplasia. Genetic analyses of the FIPA kindred revealed a novel E216X mutation of the AIP gene, which was present in both the affected patients and the unaffected father. Molecular analysis of surgical specimens revealed loss of heterozygosity (LOH) in the adenoma but showed that LOH was not present in the hyperplastic pituitary tissue from either patient. AIP immunostaining confirmed normal staining in the hyperplastic tissue and decreased staining in the adenoma in the tumors from both patients. These results demonstrate that patients with AIP germline mutation can present with silent somatotrope pituitary adenomas. The finding of somatotrope hyperplasia unaccompanied by AIP LOH suggests that LOH at the AIP locus might be a late event in a potential progression from hyperplastic to adenomatous tissue.

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Odelia Cooper, George Vlotides, Hidenori Fukuoka, Mark I Greene, and Shlomo Melmed

The role of ErbB family in discreet pituitary functions is reviewed. Several ErbB receptor ligands, EGF, TGFα, and heregulin are differentially expressed in normal gonadotroph and lacto-somatotroph lineages, and other elements of the anterior pituitary. ErbB receptors, i.e. EGFR and ErbB2, are also localized to the anterior pituitary with preferential EGFR lactosomatotroph expression. EGF regulates CRH and ACTH secretion and corticotroph proliferation as well as exhibiting autocrine and paracrine effects on gonadotrophs and on lactosomatotroph proliferation, gene and protein expression, and hormonal secretion. EGF and EGFR are expressed in both functioning and non-functioning pituitary adenomas, with higher expression in more aggressive tumor subtypes. ErbB2 receptor is detected in all tumor subtypes, particularly in invasive tumors. ErbB tyrosine kinase inhibitors regulate hormonal secretion, cell morphology, and proliferation in lacto-somatotroph tumors, reflecting the emerging application of targeted pituitary therapeutics.

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M Muşat, M Korbonits, B Kola, N Borboli, M R Hanson, A M Nanzer, J Grigson, S Jordan, D G Morris, M Gueorguiev, M Coculescu, S Basuand, and A B Grossman

Pituitary tumours have previously been shown to harbour several abnormalities that cause deregulation of the cell cycle, particularly down-regulation of expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27. However, it has been unclear whether these are the primary initiating events, or are secondary to other more proximate alterations in signalling pathways. In other cellular systems the Akt signalling pathway has been associated with downstream modulation of cell-cycle control. The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that Akt signalling is enhanced in pituitary tumours, and to see if changes in Akt expression are related to previous findings on low expression levels of the nuclear cell-cycle inhibitor p27 in pituitary tumours. We examined normal and adenomatous human pituitary tissue for mRNA and protein expression of Akt1, Akt2 and p27, and the activation of Akt, as well the phosphatase involved in the inactivation of Akt, phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN). In pituitary adenomas Akt1 and Akt2 mRNA were found to be over-expressed compared with normal pituitary, while PTEN transcripts showed similar levels between the two tissue types. Immunohistochemical expression of phospho-Akt was found to be higher in the tumours than normal pituitaries, while the protein expression of nuclear p27 and PTEN was lower in the adenomas. However, the expression of p27 and Akt were not directly correlated. PTEN sequencing revealed no mutation in the coding region of the gene in pituitary adenomas, and thus we did not locate a cause for the increased phosphorylation of Akt. In summary, we have shown over-expression and activation of the Akt pathway in pituitary tumours, and we speculate that cell-cycle changes observed in such tumours are secondary to these more proximate alterations. Since Akt is a major downstream signalling molecule of growth factor-liganded tyrosine kinase receptors, our data are most compatible with an abnormality at this level as the primary driver of pituitary tumorigenesis.

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Antônio Ribeiro-Oliveira Jr, Giulia Franchi, Blerina Kola, Paolo Dalino, Sérgio Veloso Brant Pinheiro, Nabila Salahuddin, Madalina Musat, Miklós I Góth, Sándor Czirják, Zoltán Hanzély, Deivid Augusto da Silva, Eduardo Paulino Jr, Ashley B Grossman, and Márta Korbonits

The molecular analysis of pituitary tumours has received a great deal of attention, although the majority of studies have concentrated on the genome and the transcriptome. We aimed to study the proteome of human pituitary adenomas. A protein array using 1005 monoclonal antibodies was used to study GH-, corticotrophin- and prolactin-secreting as well as non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPAs). Individual protein expression levels in the tumours were compared with the expression profile of normal pituitary tissue. Out of 316 proteins that were detected in the pituitary tissue samples, 116 proteins had not previously been described in human pituitary tissue. Four prominent differentially expressed proteins with potential importance to tumorigenesis were chosen for validation by immunohistochemistry and western blotting. In the protein array analysis heat shock protein 110 (HSP110), a chaperone associated with protein folding, and B2 bradykinin receptor, a potential regulator of prolactin secretion, were significantly overexpressed in all adenoma subtypes, while C-terminal Src kinase (CSK), an inhibitor of proto-oncogenic enzymes, and annexin II, a calcium-dependent binding protein, were significantly underexpressed in all adenoma subtypes. The immunohistochemical analysis confirmed the overexpression of HSP110 and B2 bradykinin receptor and underexpression of CSK and annexin II in pituitary adenoma cells when compared with their corresponding normal pituitary cells. Western blotting only partially confirmed the proteomics data: HSP110 was significantly overexpressed in prolactinomas and NFPAs, the B2 bradykinin receptor was significantly overexpressed in prolactinomas, annexin II was significantly underexpressed in somatotrophinomas, while CSK did not show significant underexpression in any tumour. Protein expression analysis of pituitary samples disclosed both novel proteins and putative protein candidates for pituitary tumorigenesis, though validation using conventional techniques are necessary to confirm the protein array data.

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Dario Palmieri, Teresa Valentino, Ivana De Martino, Francesco Esposito, Paolo Cappabianca, Anne Wierinckx, Michela Vitiello, Gaetano Lombardi, Annamaria Colao, Jacqueline Trouillas, Giovanna Maria Pierantoni, Alfredo Fusco, and Monica Fedele

We have previously demonstrated that HMGA1B and HMGA2 overexpression in mice induces the development of GH and prolactin (PRL) pituitary adenomas mainly by increasing E2F1 transcriptional activity. Interestingly, these adenomas showed very high expression levels of PIT1, a transcriptional factor that regulates the gene expression of Gh, Prl, Ghrhr and Pit1 itself, playing a key role in pituitary gland development and physiology. Therefore, the aim of our study was to identify the role of Pit1 overexpression in pituitary tumour development induced by HMGA1B and HMGA2. First, we demonstrated that HMGA1B and HMGA2 directly interact with both PIT1 and its gene promoter in vivo, and that these proteins positively regulate Pit1 promoter activity, also co-operating with PIT1 itself. Subsequently, we showed, by colony-forming assays on two different pituitary adenoma cell lines, GH3 and αT3, that Pit1 overexpression increases pituitary cell proliferation. Finally, the expression analysis of HMGA1, HMGA2 and PIT1 in human pituitary adenomas of different histological types revealed a direct correlation between PIT1 and HMGA expression levels. Taken together, our data indicate a role of Pit1 upregulation by HMGA proteins in pituitary tumours.

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K Revill, K J Dudley, R N Clayton, A M McNicol, and W E Farrell

The imprinted gene, neuronatin (NNAT), is one of the most abundant transcripts in the pituitary and is thought to be involved in the development and maturation of this gland. In a recent whole-genome approach, exploiting a pituitary tumour cell line, we identified hypermethylation associated loss of NNAT. In this report, we determined the expression pattern of NNAT in individual cell types of the normal gland and within each of the different pituitary adenoma subtypes. In addition, we determined associations between expression and CpG island methylation and used colony forming efficiency assays (CFE) to gain further insight into the tumour-suppressor function of this gene. Immunohistochemical (IHC) co-localization studies of normal pituitaries showed that each of the hormone secreting cells (GH, PRL, ACTH, FSH and TSH) expressed NNAT. However, 33 out of 47 adenomas comprising, 11 somatotrophinomas, 10 prolactinomas, 12 corticotrophinomas and 14 non-functioning tumours, irrespective of subtype failed to express either NNAT transcript or protein as determined by quantitative real-time RT-PCR and IHC respectively. In normal pituitaries and adenomas that expressed NNAT the promoter-associated CpG island showed characteristics of an imprinted gene where ∼50% of molecules were densely methylated. However, in the majority of adenomas that showed loss or significantly reduced expression of NNAT, relative to normal pituitaries, the gene-associated CpG island showed significantly increased methylation. Induced expression of NNAT in transfected AtT-20 cells significantly reduced CFE. Collectively, these findings point to an important role for NNAT in the pituitary and perhaps tumour development in this gland.