Sexual dimorphism in cellular and molecular features in human ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas

Francesca Pecori Giraldi, Maria Francesca Cassarino, Antonella Sesta, Mariarosa Terreni, Giovanni Lasio, Marco Losa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


(1) Background. Cushing’s disease presents gender disparities in prevalence and clinical course. Little is known, however, about sexual dimorphism at the level of the corticotrope adenoma itself. The aim of the present study was to evaluate molecular features of ACTH-secreting pituitary adenomas collected from female and male patients with Cushing’s disease. (2) Methods. We analyzed 153 ACTH-secreting adenomas collected from 31 men and 122 women. Adenomas were established in culture and ACTH synthesis and secretion assessed in basal conditions as well as during incubation with CRH or dexamethasone. Concurrently, microarray analysis was performed on formalin-fixed specimens and differences in the expression profiles between specimens from male and female patients identified. (3) Results. ACTH medium concentrations in adenomas obtained from male patients were significantly lower than those observed in adenomas from female patients. This could be observed for baseline as well as modulated secretion. Analysis of corticotrope transcriptomes revealed considerable similarities with few, selected differences in functional annotations. Differentially expressed genes comprised genes with known sexual dimorphism, genes involved in tumour development and genes relevant to pituitary pathophysiology. (4) Conclusions. Our study shows for the first time that human corticotrope adenomas present sexual dimorphism and underlines the need for a gender-dependent analysis of these tumours. Differentially expressed genes may represent the basis for gender-tailored target therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number669
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • ACTH-secreting adenomas
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Gender
  • Gene expression profiling
  • Neuroendocrine tumours

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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