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Oncogene. 2003 Mar 20;22(11):1663-7.

Abnormal expression of 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 in human pituitary adenomas: a prereceptor determinant of pituitary cell proliferation.

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Division of Medical Sciences, University of Birmingham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, UK.


The physiological effects of glucocorticoids (GCs) are, at least in part, mediated by inhibition of cell proliferation. Two isozymes of 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11 beta-HSD) interconvert cortisol (F) and inactive cortisone (E), and are thus able to modulate GC action at an autocrine level. Previously, we have demonstrated absent expression of 11 beta-HSD2 in normal pituitaries; however, in a small number of pituitary tumors analysed, 11 beta-HSD2 was readily demonstrable. Here we have used real-time RT-PCR to quantify expression of mRNA for 11 beta-HSD1 and 2 in 105 human pituitary tumors and have performed enzyme expression and activity studies in primary pituitary cultures. Overall, pituitary tumors expressed lower levels of 11 beta-HSDl mRNA compared with normals (0.2-fold, P<0.05). In contrast, expression of 11 beta-HSD2 mRNA was 9.8-fold greater in tumors than in normals (P<0.001). Enzyme assays showed significant 11 beta-HSD2 activity (71.9+/-22.3 pmol/h/mg protein (mean+/-s.d.)) but no detectable 11 beta-HSDl activity. Proliferation assays showed that addition of glycyrrhetinic acid (an 11 beta-HSD2 inhibitor) resulted in a 30.3+/-7.7% inhibition of cell proliferation. In summary, we describe a switch in expression from 11 beta-HSDl to 11 beta-HSD2 in neoplastic pituitary tissue. We propose that abnormal expression of 11 beta-HSD2 acts as a proproliferative prereceptor determinant of pituitary cell growth, and may provide a novel target for future tumor therapy.

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