Concise Review: Paracrine Role of Stem Cells in Pituitary Tumors: A Focus on Adamantinomatous Craniopharyngioma

Juan Pedro Martinez-Barbera, Cynthia L Andoniadou

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The existence of tissue-specific progenitor/stem cells in the adult pituitary gland of the mouse has been demonstrated recently using genetic tracing experiments. These cells have the capacity to differentiate into all of the different cell lineages of the anterior pituitary and self-propagate in vitro and can therefore contribute to normal homeostasis of the gland. In addition, they play a critical role in tumor formation, specifically in the etiology of human adamantinomatous craniopharyngioma, a clinically relevant tumor that is associated with mutations in CTNNB1 (gene encoding β-catenin). Mouse studies have shown that only pituitary embryonic precursors or adult stem cells are able to generate tumors when targeted with oncogenic β-catenin, suggesting that the cell context is critical for mutant β-catenin to exert its oncogenic effect. Surprisingly, the bulk of the tumor cells are not derived from the mutant progenitor/stem cells, suggesting that tumors are induced in a paracrine manner. Therefore, the cell sustaining the mutation in β-catenin and the cell-of-origin of the tumors are different. In this review, we will discuss the in vitro and in vivo evidence demonstrating the presence of stem cells in the adult pituitary and analyze the evidence showing a potential role of these stem cells in pituitary tumors. Stem Cells 2016.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStem cells (Dayton, Ohio)
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2016


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