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J Biol Chem. 2010 Nov 5;285(45):34718-28. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.126441. Epub 2010 Aug 31.

MicroRNAs regulate pituitary development, and microRNA 26b specifically targets lymphoid enhancer factor 1 (Lef-1), which modulates pituitary transcription factor 1 (Pit-1) expression.

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Center for Environmental and Genetic Medicine, Institute of Biosciences and Technology, Texas A&M University Health Science Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


To understand the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in pituitary development, a group of pituitary-specific miRNAs were identified, and Dicer1 was then conditionally knocked out using the Pitx2-Cre mouse, resulting in the loss of mature miRNAs in the anterior pituitary. The Pitx2-Cre/Dicer1 mutant mice demonstrate growth retardation, and the pituitaries are hypoplastic with an abnormal branching of the anterior lobe, revealing a role for microRNAs in pituitary development. Growth hormone, prolactin, and thyroid-stimulating hormone β-subunit expression were decreased in the Dicer1 mutant mouse, whereas proopiomelanocortin and luteinizing hormone β-subunit expression were normal in the mutant pituitary. Further analyses revealed decreased Pit-1 and increased Lef-1 expression in the mutant mouse pituitary, consistent with the repression of the Pit-1 promoter by Lef-1. Lef-1 directly targets and represses the Pit-1 promoter. miRNA-26b (miR-26b) was identified as targeting Lef-1 expression, and miR-26b represses Lef-1 in pituitary and non-pituitary cell lines. Furthermore, miR-26b up-regulates Pit-1 and growth hormone expression by attenuating Lef-1 expression in GH3 cells. This study demonstrates that microRNAs are critical for anterior pituitary development and that miR-26b regulates Pit-1 expression by inhibiting Lef-1 expression and may promote Pit-1 lineage differentiation during pituitary development.

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