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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.

Free access

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.

Free access

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.

Free access

Frauke Döll, Josef Pfeilschifter, and Andrea Huwiler

Sphingosine kinases (SK) catalyze the formation of sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) which plays a crucial role in cell growth and survival. Here, we show that prolactin (PRL) biphasically activates the SK-1, but not the SK-2 subtype, in the breast adenocarcinoma cell-line MCF7. A first peak occurs after minutes of stimulation and is followed by a second delayed activation after hours of stimulation. A similar biphasic effect on SK-1 activity is seen for 17β-estradiol (E2). The delayed activation of SK-1 derives from an upregulated mRNA and protein expression and is due to increased SK-1 promoter activity and mechanistically involves STAT5 activation as well as protein kinase C and the classical mitogen-activated protein kinases. Furthermore, glucocorticoids also block both hormone-induced SK-1 expression and activity. Functionally, long-term stimulation of MCF7 cells with PRL or E2 is well known to trigger increased cell proliferation and migration. Both hormone-induced cell responses critically involve SK-1 activation since the depletion of SK-1, but not SK-2, by siRNA transfection abolishes the hormone-induced cell proliferation and migration. In summary, our data show that PRL and E2 cause a pronounced delayed SK-1 activation which is due to increased gene transcription, and critically determines the capability of cells to grow and move. Thus, the SK-1 may represent a novel attractive target for anti-tumor therapy.

Open access

Julia Hoefer, Johann Kern, Philipp Ofer, Iris E Eder, Georg Schäfer, Dimo Dietrich, Glen Kristiansen, Stephan Geley, Johannes Rainer, Eberhard Gunsilius, Helmut Klocker, Zoran Culig, and Martin Puhr

Deregulation of cytokine and growth factor signaling due to an altered expression of endogenous regulators is well recognized in prostate cancer (PCa) and other cancers. Suppressor of cytokine signaling 2 (SOCS2) is a key regulator of the GH, IGF, and prolactin signaling pathways that have been implicated in carcinogenesis. In this study, we evaluated the expression patterns and functional significance of SOCS2 in PCa. Protein expression analysis employing tissue microarrays from two independent patient cohorts revealed a significantly enhanced expression in tumor tissue compared with benign tissue as well as association with Gleason score and disease progression. In vitro and in vivo assays uncovered the involvement of SOCS2 in the regulation of cell growth and apoptosis. Functionally, SOCS2 knockdown inhibited PCa cell proliferation and xenograft growth in a CAM assay. Decreased cell growth after SOCS2 downregulation was associated with cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis. In addition, we proved that SOCS2 expression is significantly elevated upon androgenic stimulation in androgen receptor (AR)-positive cell lines, providing a possible mechanistic explanation for high SOCS2 levels in PCa tissue. Consequently, SOCS2 expression correlated with AR expression in the malignant tissue of patients. On the whole, our study linked increased SOCS2 expression in PCa with a pro-proliferative role in vitro and in vivo.

Free access

Sarah A Dabydeen and Priscilla A Furth

The majority of human breast cancers are estrogen receptor-positive (ER+), but this has proven challenging to model in genetically engineered mice. This review summarizes information on 21 mouse models that develop ER+ mammary cancer. Where available, information on cancer pathology and gene expression profiles is referenced to assist in understanding which histological subtype of ER+ human cancer each model might represent. ESR1, CCDN1, prolactin, TGFα, AIB1, ESPL1, and WNT1 overexpression, PIK3CA gain of function, as well as loss of P53 (Trp53) or STAT1 are associated with ER+ mammary cancer. Treatment with the PPARγ agonist efatutazone in a mouse with Brca1 and p53 deficiency and 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene exposure in combination with an activated myristoylated form of AKT1 also induce ER+ mammary cancer. A spontaneous mutant in nude mice that develops metastatic ER+ mammary cancer is included. Age of cancer development ranges from 3 to 26 months and the percentage of cancers that are ER+ vary from 21 to 100%. Not all models are characterized as to their estrogen dependency and/or response to anti-hormonal therapy. Strain backgrounds include C57Bl/6, FVB, BALB/c, 129S6/SvEv, CB6F1, and NIH nude. Most models have only been studied on one strain background. In summary, while a range of models are available for studies of pathogenesis and therapy of ER+ breast cancers, many could benefit from further characterization, and opportunity for development of new models remains.

Free access

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.

Free access

M Fuertes, M Sapochnik, L Tedesco, S Senin, A Attorresi, P Ajler, G Carrizo, A Cervio, G Sevlever, J J Bonfiglio, G K Stalla, and E Arzt

Increased levels of the proto-oncogene pituitary tumor-transforming gene 1 (PTTG) have been repeatedly reported in several human solid tumors, especially in endocrine-related tumors such as pituitary adenomas. Securin PTTG has a critical role in pituitary tumorigenesis. However, the cause of upregulation has not been found yet, despite analyses made at the gene, promoter and mRNA level that show that no mutations, epigenetic modifications or other mechanisms that deregulate its expression may explain its overexpression and action as an oncogene. We describe that high PTTG protein levels are induced by the RWD-containing sumoylation enhancer (RWDD3 or RSUME), a protein originally identified in the same pituitary tumor cell line in which PTTG was also cloned. We demonstrate that PTTG and RSUME have a positive expression correlation in human pituitary adenomas. RSUME increases PTTG protein in pituitary tumor cell lines, prolongs the half-life of PTTG protein and regulates the PTTG induction by estradiol. As a consequence, RSUME enhances PTTG transcription factor and securin activities. PTTG hyperactivity on the cell cycle resulted in recurrent and unequal divisions without cytokinesis, and the consequential appearance of aneuploidies and multinucleated cells in the tumor. RSUME knockdown diminishes securin PTTG and reduces its tumorigenic potential in a xenograft mouse model. Taken together, our findings show that PTTG high protein steady state levels account for PTTG tumor abundance and demonstrate a critical role of RSUME in this process in pituitary tumor cells.

Free access

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.

Free access

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.