The genetics of pituitary adenomas

Silvia Vandeva, Marie-Lise Jaffrain-Rea, Adrian F Daly, Maria Tichomirowa, Sabina Zacharieva, Albert Beckers
Best Practice & Research. Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 2010, 24 (3): 461-76
Pituitary adenomas are one of the most frequent intracranial tumors with a prevalence of clinically-apparent tumors close to 1:1000 of the general population. They are clinically significant because of hormone overproduction and/or tumor mass effects in addition to the need for neurosurgery, medical therapies and radiotherapy. The majority of pituitary adenomas have a sporadic origin with recognized genetic mutations seldom being found; somatotropinomas are an exception, presenting frequent somatic GNAS mutations. In this and other phenotypes, tumorigenesis could possibly be explained by altered function of genes implicated in cell cycle regulation, growth factors or their receptors, cell-signaling pathways, specific hormonal factors or other molecules with still unclear mechanisms of action. Genetic changes, such as allelic loss or gene amplification, and epigenetic changes, usually by promoter methylation, have been implicated in abnormal gene expression, but alternative mechanisms may be present. Familial cases of pituitary adenomas represent 5% of all pituitary tumors. MEN1 mutations cause multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), while the Carney complex (CNC) is characterized by mutations in the protein kinase A regulatory subunit-1alpha (PRKAR1A) gene or changes in a locus at 2p16. Recently, a MEN1-like condition, MEN4, was found to be related to mutations in the CDKN1B gene. The clinical entity of familial isolated pituitary adenomas (FIPA) is characterized by genetic defects in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor interacting protein (AIP) gene in about 15% of all kindreds and 50% of homogenous somatotropinoma families. Identification of familial cases of pituitary adenomas is important as these tumors may be more aggressive than their sporadic counterparts.

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