Characterization of C-kit (CD117) expression in human normal pituitary cells and pituitary adenomas

Stefano La Rosa, Silvia Uccella, Linda Dainese, Silvia Marchet, Claudia Placidi, Davide Vigetti, Carlo Capella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


c-kit (CD117) is a tyrosine kinase receptor involved in the proliferation, differentiation, and secretory functions of various cells. In experimental animal models, c-kit has been detected in the pars intermedia of the normal pituitary gland and in α-melanocyte-stimulating-hormone-positive adenomas and it has been suggested that it plays a role in regulating adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion. To the best of our knowledge, the expression of c-kit in normal human pituitary cells and in pituitary adenomas has never been reported, so the possible biological role of this receptor in the control of pituitary hormone secretion remains unclear. The aim of this study was to evaluate the immunohistochemical expression of c-kit in normal human pituitary glands and in a series of 62 well-characterized pituitary adenomas. In normal adenohypophyses, several cells, mainly located in the central mucoid wedge, showed a c-kit immunoreactivity (IR). Double label immunostaining procedures showed that the c-kit-IR cells corresponded to ACTH cells. Out of 62 adenomas, 15 (24%) were c-kit-IR, including 7/16 (44%) ACTH cell, 3/7 (42%) null cell, 4/11 (36%) α-subunit cell, and 1/11 (10%) follicle-stimulating hormone-luteinizing hormone cell adenomas. By contrast, all ten prolactin cell and seven growth hormone cell adenomas were c-kit negative. These data suggest that, in normal conditions, c-kit may be involved in the pituitary-adrenal axis regulation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-111
Number of pages8
JournalEndocrine Pathology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • C-kit
  • CD117
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Pituitary
  • Pituitary adenoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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