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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2014 Mar 25;385(1-2):2-17. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2013.08.018. Epub 2013 Aug 28.

Pituitary stem cells: where do we stand?

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Department of Development and Regeneration, Cluster Stem Cell Biology and Embryology, Research Unit of Stem Cell Research, University of Leuven (KU Leuven), B-3000 Leuven, Belgium. Electronic address:
Department of Hand Surgery, Tongji Medical College, Union Hospital, Huazhong University of Science & Technology (HUST), Wuhan, Hubei 430022, PR China. Electronic address:


Some 5 years ago, the stem cells of the adult pituitary gland were discovered. Subsequent in-depth characterization revealed expression of several stemness markers and embryo-typical factors. Now, the quest is open to decipher their role in the gland. When and how pituitary stem cells differentiate to contribute to the mature hormone-producing cell populations is not known. New research models support their involvement in cell regeneration after injury in the gland, and suggest a possible role in pituitary tumor formation. From their expression phenotype, pituitary stem cells seem to re-use embryonic developmental programs during the creation of new hormonal cells. Here, we will review the latest progression in the domain of pituitary stem cells, including the uncovering of some new molecular flavors and of the first potential functions. Eventually, we will speculate on their differentiation programs towards hormonal cells, with a particular focus on gonadotropes.


Gonadotropes; Pituitary stem cells; Prop1; Regeneration; Side population; Sox2

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