Expression of the transferrin receptor in human anterior pituitary adenomas is confined to gonadotrophinomas

Stephen Atkin, H. E. Burnett, V. L. Green, M. C. White, M. Lombard

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Objective. The human pituitary gland is affected selectively by conditions associated with iron deposition, but the mechanisms for this are unknown. In this study we have determined whether the transferrin receptor, which mediates iron uptake by cells, could be detected immunocytochemically in human pituitary adenomas in vitro. Patients. Data were derived from 35 patients undergoing transsphenoidal surgery and included 13 with clinically non-functioning adenomas, 15 with acromegaly, 4 prolactinomas, 2 patients with Cushing's disease and one patient with Nelson's syndrome. Measurements. Transferrin receptor immunopositivity was determined for each adenoma in dispersed cell culture using a specific monoclonal antibody. Results. Eight of 13 clinically functionless adenomas showed immunopositive transferrin receptor expression, whilst adenomas from 15 patients with acromegaly, 4 prolactinomas, 2 Cushing's syndrome and one patient with Nelson's syndrome were negative. The eight transferrin receptor positive tumours were gonadotrophinomas and accounted for eight of the nine tumours which secreted and immunostained for FSH; all eight also secreted and immunostained for LH. Conclusions. These findings may reflect a special requirement for iron by gonadotrophin secreting cells in comparison to other pituitary cell types and this could underlie the reasons why in the normal pituitary these cells are especially susceptible to malfunction in iron overload syndromes such as genetic haemochromatosis and β-thalassaemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-471
Number of pages5
JournalClinical Endocrinology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology

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