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Endocrinology. 2005 May;146(5):2376-87. Epub 2005 Jan 27.

Nestin-immunoreactive cells in rat pituitary are neither hormonal nor typical folliculo-stellate cells.

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Laboratory of Cell Pharmacology, Department of Molecular Cell Biology, University of Leuven, Campus Gasthuisberg, B-3000 Leuven, Belgium.


Nestin is an intermediate filament protein that has originally been identified as a marker of neuroepithelial stem/progenitor cells. The present study explored whether nestin immunoreactivity (nestin-ir) is present in the rat pituitary and in which cell type(s). Nestin-ir was observed in scattered cells in the anterior, intermediate, and neural lobes. Nestin-ir cells were predominantly of stellate shape and were more numerous in immature than in adult animals. Nestin-ir did not colocalize with any pituitary hormone, and did not colocalize or only very sporadically with the folliculo-stellate cell marker S100. In the intermediate lobe, nestin-ir cells contained glial fibrillary acidic protein in an age-dependent manner. Nestin-ir cells were closely associated with endothelial and fibronectin-ir cells, but did mostly not coincide. Nestin-ir was not found in alpha-smooth muscle actin-ir myofibroblasts or in microglial cells. Regardless of age, nestin-ir was detected in some unidentifiable cells that border the pituitary cleft. Nestin-ir remained present in pituitary cultured as three-dimensional aggregates. Treatment with basic fibroblast growth factor or leukemia inhibitory factor increased the number of nestin-ir cells. Starting from anterior lobe cell monolayer cultures, nestin-ir cells could be selected and propagated to a virtually pure population. These nestin-ir cells displayed remarkable motility and proliferative activity, and did not express hormones, glial fibrillary acidic protein, or S100, but contained vimentin-, fibronectin-, and alpha-smooth muscle actin-ir. In conclusion, nestin-ir is present in the pituitary in cells that are neither hormonal nor typical folliculo-stellate. The expression pattern depends on age and lobe examined. Pericapillar localization suggests a pericyte phenotype for some of them. Whether the heterogeneous nestin-ir population also contains pituitary progenitor cells remains to be explored.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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