Targeting of transforming growth factor-alpha expression to pituitary lactotrophs in transgenic mice results in selective lactotroph proliferation and adenomas.

Research paper by J J McAndrew, A J AJ Paterson, S L SL Asa, K J KJ McCarthy, J E JE Kudlow

Indexed on: 01 Oct '95Published on: 01 Oct '95Published in: Endocrinology


The PRL-secreting cells of the pituitary gland normally express transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF alpha). To determine the effect of increasing TGF alpha expression in the pituitary, a transgenic mouse model was created in which overexpression of human TGF alpha was directed to the pituitary lactotrophs using the rat PRL promoter. Of the four gene-positive mouse lines, two expressed the messenger RNA corresponding to the transgenic in the pituitary glands. However, in both these lines, expression could only be detected in the female animals. Expression of the transgenic could be detected as early as 1 month of age, but no pathology or developmental abnormalities were detected until the animals reached 6 months, at which time, hyperplasia of the lactotrophs. By the age of 12 months, all of the homozygous transgenic females had developed pituitary adenomas that were immunopositive for PRL. The other hormone-producing cells of the pituitary showed no obvious pathology. The male transgenics developed neither hyperplasia nor adenomas, nor did the gene-positive transgenic lines that did not express the transgene. In no case was an aggressive pituitary tumor seen. This transgenic mouse model indicates that TGF alpha overexpression by lactotrophs stimulates the growth of these pituitary cells. Furthermore, TGF alpha has a highly localized action in the pituitary gland, resulting only in lactotroph hyperplasia and prolactinomas. These observations suggest that TGF alpha might play a role in the development of prolactinomas.