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Organisation of basement membrane components in the human adult and fetal pituitary gland and in pituitary adenomas

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 Cell–matrix interactions undoubtedly have a role in the development and maintenance of the complex nonrandom structure of the human pituitary gland. We have extended previous studies by documenting the patterns of immunoreactivity for type IV collagen, laminin and fibronectin in the fetal gland, comparing these with the adult patterns. In both we have examined the differences between the anterior lobe and intermediate zone in an attempt to elucidate the apparent differences in functional response between corticotrophs in the two areas. We have also examined expression of these proteins in a series of pituitary adenomas. Finally, we have immunolocalised β4 integrin, a component of the α6β4 laminin receptor, in the adult gland and in adenomas. In the anterior lobe of the adult gland, type IV collagen and laminin were present in both epithelial and vascular basement membrane. Fibronectin was related to the basement membrane but showed a less continuous distribution. β4 Integrin was expressed on the basal aspects of pituitary cells, in association with laminin, suggesting that this did identify the α6β4 laminin receptor. In addition, immunoreactivity was present on the lateral margins of some pituitary cells, which might indicate a role in cell–cell adhesion. None of the proteins showed specific association with any particular cell type, suggesting that these specific interactions do not regulate differentiation. This pattern of expression had developed in the fetal gland by the second trimester, with expression relating to vessels preceding that in epithelial basement membrane. Type IV collagen, laminin and fibronectin were also expressed in epithelial and vascular basement membrane in the intermediate zone of the adult gland, and around Rathke’s cleft in the fetal gland. However, the organisation differed, with larger groups of cells enclosed within a single basement membrane. Possible vascular connections demonstrated between the posterior lobe and the intermediate zone would permit access of posterior lobe hormones to this zone. Our data confirmed disruption of expression in pituitary adenomas, type IV collagen, laminin and β4 integrin having a mainly perivascular distribution, with more variable immunoreactivity for fibronectin.

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Received: 17 February 1997 / Accepted: 17 May 1997

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Murray, K., de Lera, J., Astudillo, A. et al. Organisation of basement membrane components in the human adult and fetal pituitary gland and in pituitary adenomas. Virchows Archiv 431, 329–335 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004280050107

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  • Key words Pituitary gland
  • Anterior lobe
  • Intermediate zone
  • Adult vs fetal
  • Adenomas