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Immunohistochemistry of folliculo-stellate cells in normal human adenohypophyses and in pituitary adenomas


Presence and distribution of S-100 protein (S-100), neuron-specific enolase (NSE), cytokeratin polypeptides, glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), vimentin, actin, lysozyme and pituitary hormones (prolactin, hGH, ACTH, β-FSH, β-LH, β-TSH, alpha subunit) in folliculo-stellate cells (FSC) were studied in seven normal human pituitary glands and 28 pituitary adenomas using peroxidase-antiperoxidase and the avidin-biotin immunohistochemical techniques. Approximately 5% of the cells of the adenohypophysis were agranular, non-hormon-producing FSC most of which showed a conspicuous and strong reaction with S-100 antibodies but some were, in addition, GFAP- and vimentin-positive. In contrast to endocrine cells (EC), FSC were not decorated by antibodies to NSE or cytokeratins. In addition to supportive functions, these cells, due to their close special relationship to EC, seem to have transport and other metabolic functions yet to be elucidated. By their S-100 reactivity and their distribution FSC are comparable to glial cells of the central and schwann and satellite cells of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) as well as to supportive cells in neuroendocrine organs and related tumors (e.g., pheochromocytomas, paragangliomas, carcinoids). With one exception, S-100 reactive FSC were not found in pituitary adenomas. The immunohistochemical demonstration of S-100 protein in pituitary tissue is, therefore, a reliable aid in the discrimination between adenomas and normal pituitary tissue, particularly in small and poorly preserved specimens. In one adenoma FSC were found in addition to ACTH-producing tumor cells. This seems to be an extremely rare event suggesting a combination tumor.

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Correspondence to H. Höfler.

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Supported in part by Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (no. 4708) to H. Denk

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Höfler, H., Walter, G.F. & Denk, H. Immunohistochemistry of folliculo-stellate cells in normal human adenohypophyses and in pituitary adenomas. Acta Neuropathol 65, 35–40 (1984).

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Key words

  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Folliculo-stellate cells
  • Pituitary gland
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • S-100 protein