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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Sep;87(9):4238-44.

Vascular endothelial growth factor, its receptor KDR/Flk-1, and pituitary tumor transforming gene in pituitary tumors.

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Division of Medical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TH, United Kingdom.


Pituitary tumorigenesis is a poorly understood process involving dysregulation of the cell cycle, proliferation, and angiogenesis. The novel securin pituitary tumor transforming gene (PTTG) disrupts cell division and stimulates fibroblast growth factor (FGF)-2-mediated angiogenesis. We investigated expression of the angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptor KDR/Flk-1 in 103 human pituitary tumors, and we assessed functional relationships between these genes in vitro. Nonfunctioning tumors (n = 81) demonstrated markedly raised VEGF mRNA (3.2-fold, P < 0.05) and protein concentrations, compared with normal pituitaries (n = 10). KDR was also highly induced in nonfunctioning tumors (14-fold, P < 0.001, n = 78) as well as in the whole cohort of pituitary tumors, compared with normal pituitary samples (14-fold, P < 0.0001, n = 100). In vitro, PTTG induced VEGF, but not KDR, expression in fetal neuronal NT2 cells (2.7-fold, P < 0.001, n = 8), MCF-7 breast carcinoma cells (1.9-fold, P = 0.03, n = 10), and choriocarcinoma JEG-3 cells (P = 0.0002, n = 8). A mutated PTTG construct that cannot be phosphorylated showed identical VEGF up-regulation (2.9-fold, P < 0.001, n = 8) in NT2 cells, compared with wild-type PTTG, but a further mutated construct with abrogation of the key protein:protein interaction domain of PTTG resulted in a significant reduction in VEGF stimulation, compared with wild-type (0.37-fold reduction, P < 0.001, n = 8). FGF-2 findings mirrored those of VEGF, although antibody depletion of secreted FGF-2 in the cell medium failed to influence VEGF up-regulation by PTTG. Overall, our findings implicate altered VEGF and KDR signaling in pituitary tumorigenesis, and we propose that PTTG stimulation of FGF-2 and VEGF expression in the presence of up-regulated growth factor receptors may account for angiogenic growth and progression of human pituitary tumors.

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