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Mol Endocrinol. 2005 Jul;19(7):1893-903. Epub 2005 Mar 10.

PITX genes are required for cell survival and Lhx3 activation.

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4301 MSRB III, 1500 West Medical Center Drive, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0638, USA.


The PITX family of transcription factors regulate the development of many organs. Pitx1 mutants have a mild pituitary phenotype, but Pitx2 is necessary for the development of Rathke's pouch, expression of essential transcription factors in gonadotropes, and expansion of the Pit1 lineage. We report that lack of Pitx2 causes the pouch to undergo excessive cell death, resulting in severe pituitary hypoplasia. Transgenic overexpression of PITX2 in the pituitary can increase the gonadotrope population, suggesting that the absolute concentration of PITX2 is important for normal pituitary cell lineage expansion. We show that PITX1 and PITX2 proteins are present in similar expression patterns throughout pituitary development and in the mature pituitary. Both transcription factors are preferentially expressed in adult gonadotropes and thyrotropes, suggesting the possibility of overlap in maintenance of adult pituitary functions within these cell types. Double knockouts of Pitx1 and Pitx2 exhibit severe pituitary hypoplasia and fail to express the transcription factor LHX3. This indicates that these PITX genes are upstream of Lhx3 and have compensatory roles during development. Thus, the combined dosage of these PITX family members is vital for pituitary development, and their persistent coexpression in the adult pituitary suggests a continued role in maintenance of pituitary function.

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