Fetal gonadotrope cell origin of FSH-secreting pituitary adenoma - Insight into human pituitary tumour pathogenesis

J. R E Davis, J. R. McNeilly, A. J. Norris, C. Pope, M. Wilding, G. McDowell, J. P. Holland, A. S. McNeilly

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    Objective: The pathogenesis of human pituitary adenomas remains unclear, but we report a case of FSH-secreting pituitary adenoma whose monohormonal phenotype suggests it was of fetal origin. Patients: A 28-year-old woman presented with abdominal discomfort and irregular menses, enlarged multicystic ovaries and elevated serum oestradiol, with sustained high-normal FSH and low LH levels. Measurements: Endocrine studies were performed before and after curative surgery, with assessment of tumour hormone secretion in vitro, and immunostaining of tumour tissue for a series of gonadotrope proteins. Results: Immunocytochemistry showed that tumour cells were monohormonal for FSH. Normal components of gonadotrope signalling pathways were expressed, including oestrogen receptor-α, activin receptors, secretogranin-II and chromogranin-A. β-glycan, the putative inhibin coreceptor, was absent. Tumour culture in vitro confirmed secretion of FSH with minimal LH, that was unsuppressed by oestradiol or inhibin-A. Human fetal pituitary tissue contained FSH-only cells at 18 weeks gestation, whereas normal adult pituitary tissue contained only bihormonal gonadotropes. Conclusions: We propose that this pituitary adenoma represents an indolent tumour of monohormonal fetal gonadotrope cells that originated early in gestation. Pituitary tumours may therefore arise from abnormal persistence of fetal cell types, with extremely slow growth over many years until reaching a size threshold to generate an endocrine syndrome. Understanding fetal pituitary architecture and function may be more informative for new insights into pituitary tumour pathogenesis than classical theories of cancer biology that invoke unrestrained cell proliferation. © 2006 The Authors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)648-654
    Number of pages6
    JournalClinical Endocrinology
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006


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