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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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Samuel M O'Toole, Judit Dénes, Mercedes Robledo, Constantine A Stratakis and Márta Korbonits

The combination of pituitary adenomas (PA) and phaeochromocytomas (phaeo) or paragangliomas (PGL) is a rare event. Although these endocrine tumours may occur together by coincidence, there is mounting evidence that, in at least some cases, classical phaeo/PGL-predisposing genes may also play a role in pituitary tumorigenesis. A new condition that we termed ‘3Pas’ for the association of PA with phaeo and/or PGL was recently described in patients with succinate dehydrogenase mutations and PAs. It should also be noted that the classical tumour suppressor gene, MEN1 that is the archetype of the PA-predisposing genes, is also rarely associated with phaeos in both mice and humans with MEN1 defects. In this report, we review the data leading to the discovery of 3PAs, other associations linking PAs with phaeos and/or PGLs, and the corresponding clinical and molecular genetics.

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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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D Dworakowska, E Wlodek, C A Leontiou, S Igreja, M Cakir, M Teng, N Prodromou, M I Góth, S Grozinsky-Glasberg, M Gueorguiev, B Kola, M Korbonits and A B Grossman

Raf/MEK/ERK and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) cascades are key signalling pathways interacting with each other to regulate cell growth and tumourigenesis. We have previously shown B-Raf and Akt overexpression and/or overactivation in pituitary adenomas. The aim of this study is to assess the expression of their downstream components (MEK1/2, ERK1/2, mTOR, TSC2, p70S6K) and effectors (c-MYC and CYCLIN D1). We studied tissue from 16 non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPAs), six GH-omas, six prolactinomas and six ACTH-omas, all collected at transsphenoidal surgery; 16 normal autopsy pituitaries were used as controls. The expression of phospho and total protein was assessed with western immunoblotting, and the mRNA expression with quantitative RT-PCR. The expression of pSer217/221 MEK1/2 and pThr183 ERK1/2 (but not total MEK1/2 or ERK1/2) was significantly higher in all tumour subtypes in comparison to normal pituitaries. There was no difference in the expression of phosphorylated/total mTOR, TSC2 or p70S6K between pituitary adenomas and controls. Neither c-MYC phosphorylation at Ser 62 nor total c-MYC was changed in the tumours. However, c-MYC phosphorylation at Thr58/Ser62 (a response target for Akt) was decreased in all tumour types. CYCLIN D1 expression was higher only in NFPAs. The mRNA expression of MEK1, MEK2, ERK1, ERK2, c-MYC and CCND1 was similar in all groups. Our data indicate that in pituitary adenomas both the Raf/MEK/ERK and PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathways are upregulated in their initial cascade, implicating a pro-proliferative signal derangement upstream to their point of convergence. However, we speculate that other processes, such as senescence, attenuate the changes downstream in these benign tumours.

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Iain R Thompson, Annisa N Chand, Peter J King, Olaf Ansorge, Niki Karavitaki, Ceri Alexander Jones, Dolkun Rahmutula, David G Gardner, Vladimir Zivkovic, Caroline P Wheeler-Jones, Imelda M McGonnell, Márta Korbonits, Richard A Anderson, John A H Wass, Alan S McNeilly and Robert C Fowkes

C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP/Nppc) is expressed at high levels in the anterior pituitary of rats and mice and activates guanylyl cyclase B receptors (GC-B/Npr2) to regulate hormone secretion. Mutations in NPR2/Npr2 can cause achondroplasia, GH deficiency, and female infertility, yet the normal expression profile within the anterior pituitary remains to be established in humans. The current study examined the expression profile and transcriptional regulation of NPR2 and GC-B protein in normal human fetal pituitaries, normal adult pituitaries, and human pituitary adenomas using RT-PCR and immunohistochemistry. Transcriptional regulation of human NPR2 promoter constructs was characterized in anterior pituitary cell lines of gonadotroph, somatolactotroph, and corticotroph origin. NPR2 was detected in all human fetal and adult pituitary samples regardless of age or sex, as well as in all adenoma samples examined regardless of tumor origin. GC-B immunoreactivity was variable in normal pituitary, gonadotrophinomas, and somatotrophinomas. Maximal transcriptional regulation of the NPR2 promoter mapped to a region within −214 bp upstream of the start site in all anterior pituitary cell lines examined. Electrophoretic mobility shift assays revealed that this region contains Sp1/Sp3 response elements. These data are the first to show NPR2 expression in normal human fetal and adult pituitaries and adenomatous pituitary tissue and suggest a role for these receptors in both pituitary development and oncogenesis, introducing a new target to manipulate these processes in pituitary adenomas.

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S L Asa, O Casar-Borota, P Chanson, E Delgrange, P Earls, S Ezzat, A Grossman, H Ikeda, N Inoshita, N Karavitaki, M Korbonits, E R Laws Jr, M B Lopes, N Maartens, I E McCutcheon, O Mete, H Nishioka, G Raverot, F Roncaroli, W Saeger, L V Syro, A Vasiljevic, C Villa, A Wierinckx, J Trouillas and and the attendees of 14th Meeting of the International Pituitary Pathology Club, Annecy, France, November 2016

The classification of neoplasms of adenohypophysial cells is misleading because of the simplistic distinction between adenoma and carcinoma, based solely on metastatic spread and the poor reproducibility and predictive value of the definition of atypical adenomas based on the detection of mitoses or expression of Ki-67 or p53. In addition, the current classification of neoplasms of the anterior pituitary does not accurately reflect the clinical spectrum of behavior. Invasion and regrowth of proliferative lesions and persistence of hormone hypersecretion cause significant morbidity and mortality. We propose a new terminology, pituitary neuroendocrine tumor (PitNET), which is consistent with that used for other neuroendocrine neoplasms and which recognizes the highly variable impact of these tumors on patients.