Somatomammotropin cells in GH-secreting and PRL-secreting human pituitary adenomas

Research paper by M. Bassetti, M. Brina, A. Spada, G. Giannattasio

Indexed on: 09 Apr '14Published on: 09 Apr '14Published in: Journal of Endocrinological Investigation


A morphological study has been carried out on 20 GH-secreting adenomas removed from acromegalic normoprolactinemic patients, on 29 PRL-secreting adenomas removed from hyperprolactinemic patients without signs of acromegaly and on one normal human anterior pituitary gland collected at autopsy. The protein A-gold immunoelectron microscopic technique has been utilized in order to verify the presence of mixed cells producing both GH and PRL (somatomammotropins) in these pituitary tissues. In the normal pituitary a considerable number of somatomammotropins (15–20%) was found, thus supporting the idea that these cells are normal components of the human anterior pituitary gland. In 10 GH-secreting adenomas and in 10 PRL-secreting adenomas somatomammotrophs were present in a variable number (from 4 to 20% of the whole cell population in GH adenomas and from 1 to 47% in PRL tumors). It can be concluded therefore that these cells, largely present in all GH/PRL-secreting adenomas, can also be found in GH-secreting and PRL-secreting tumors without clinical evidence of a mixed secretion. Adenomatous somatomammotrophs displayed ultrastructural features of adenomatous somatotrophs and mammotrophs (prominent Golgi complexes, abundant rough endoplasmic reticulum, irregular nuclei). The size and the number of granules were variable. In some cells GH and PRL were stored in distinct secretory granules, in others in mixed granules or both in mixed and distinct granules, thus suggesting that in adenomatous somatomammotrophs the efficiency of the mechanisms of sorting of the two hormones varies from one cell to another. The fact that somatomammotrophs have been found in normal pituitaries and were lacking in some tumors would suggest that in tumors these cells might originate from their normal cellular counterparts and not be a consequence of the tumoral process.