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Pit-1 gene expression in human pituitary adenomas.

Horm Res. 1997 ;47(4-6):251-8
Pit-1 gene expression in human pituitary adenomas.
Pellegrini-Bouiller I, Morange-Ramos I, Barlier A, Gunz G, Enjalbert A, Jaquet P.

The anterior pituitary-specific transcription factor Pit-1 (also known as GHF-1) was initially identified and cloned as a transactivator of the GH and PRL genes, and later as a regulator of the TSH beta gene. Analysis of Pit-1 expression during mouse embryogenesis revealed that initiation of its expression correlates both temporally and spatially with activation of its target genes. Immunocytochemical studies revealed a high expression of Pit-1 protein in the nuclei of only three cell types : somatotropes, lactotropes and thyrotropes. The importance of Pit-1 as a regulator of the anterior pituitary development has been further demonstrated by the absence of somatotropes, lactotropes and thyrotropes in the pituitary glands of Pit-1-defective mice and humans. Since Pit-1 is required for both cell phenotype and proliferation, one may ask if this transcription factor might be associated with development of pituitary tumors. Several investigators have reported Pit-1 gene expression in human pituitary adenomas. These studies, while not in total agreement, show that pituitary tumorigenesis does not seem to be associated with a gross alteration of Pit-1 gene expression in humans. Pit-1 transcripts, identical in size and sequence to those observed in normal pituitary, were described in human GH-, PRL- and TSH-secreting pituitary adenomas and in most cases the presence of Pit-1 transcripts correlated with the localization of Pit-1 protein. The biological relevance of Pit-1 expression reported in some nonfunctioning adenomas remains to be clarified. As expression of the PRL and GH genes is ultimately confined to distinct lactotropic and somatotropic populations despite the presence of Pit-1 protein in both cell types, there must be additional mechanisms that control the cell-specific activation of the PRL and GH promoters. The Pit-1 beta isoform, raised through alternative splicing of exon 2 of the Pit-1 gene, is a more potent inducer of GH transcription than the major Pit-1 form. This form could, at least in part, account for the cell-specific activation of the PRL and GH genes. Pit-1 beta was invariably found present in all the tumors expressing the Pit-1 major form, no significant difference in the Pit-1 beta/Pit-1 expression ratio being observed between tumors identified as pure GH- or PRL-producing tumors. This lack of selectivity together with its low level of expression is therefore not in favor of a key role for the beta-isoform in the cell type-specific expression of the GH and PRL genes in humans. The failure of somatotropes, lactotropes and thyrotropes to proliferate in Pit-1-defective mice and humans indicates that Pit-1 might be competent to activate genes required for cell proliferation or survival of the three cell types. Recent data indeed suggest that Pit-1 may directly or indirectly regulate somatotropes and lactotropes through activation of the receptors for GRF and SRIF on the one hand, and dopamine on the other hand. Such regulatory mechanisms could contribute to the differentiation of the somatomammotropic lineage in fully differentiated somatotropic and lactotropic cells.


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