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Am J Pathol. 1991 Sep;139(3):553-64.

Analysis of pituitary hormones and chromogranin A mRNAs in null cell adenomas, oncocytomas, and gonadotroph adenomas by in situ hybridization.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor.


To study the relationship between null cell adenomas, oncocytomas and gonadotroph adenomas, we analyzed 32 surgically removed formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded pituitary tumors for the expression of pituitary hormone messenger RNAs (mRNAs) by in situ hybridization (ISH). Most tumors were also analyzed for chromogranin A mRNA. To identify the cell type constituting the tumors and to assess hormone content, all tumors were investigated by histology, transmission electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry. Most null cell adenomas (6/11) and gonadotroph adenomas (9/10) expressed the mRNAs for alpha-subunit of glycoprotein hormones whereas only 2/11 oncocytomas expressed alpha-subunit mRNA. FSH beta and/or LH beta mRNA were present in most null cell and gonadotroph adenomas but only in a few oncocytomas. Prolactin (PRL) mRNA was detected in two null cell tumors and in one gonadotroph adenoma, whereas GH and POMC mRNA were present in one null cell adenoma. Chromogranin A mRNA, which codes for the major secretory granule protein, was present in 25/26 tumors including all tumors that were negative for pituitary hormone mRNAs, indicating adequate preservation of specific mRNA transcripts in the paraffin-embedded sections of tumor cells. These results indicate that null cell adenomas and gonadotroph adenomas are closely related neoplasms and that oncocytomas may represent a functionally defective form of null cell adenoma characterized by mitochondrial abundance, which has retained the capacity to synthesize the major secretory granule protein chromogranin A. Although the cytogenesis of null cell adenomas and oncocytomas is not clear, it can be suggested that these two tumor types are derived from a pluripotential precursor cell that is capable of undergoing multidirectional differentiation and synthesizing various hormones, mainly glycoproteins.

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