The changing faces of corticotroph cell adenomas: the role of prohormone convertase 1/3

Alberto Righi, Marco Faustini-Fustini, Luca Morandi, Valentina Monti, Sofia Asioli, Diego Mazzatenta, Antonella Bacci, Maria Pia Foschini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The spectrum of corticotroph cell adenomas is very wide. Though rarely, silent corticotroph cell adenomas (SCA) may transform into corticotroph cell adenomas associated with Cushing’s disease (CD). The aim of the study was to investigate the role of prohormone convertase 1/3 (PC1/3) in the transformation of SCA into CD. We reviewed the records of 1259 consecutive endoscopic endonasal procedures for pituitary adenomas from 1998 to 2013. Of these, 132 were CD and 44 were SCA. During the follow-up, three patients with SCA showed a clear transformation from SCA into CD and underwent surgery once again to remove the recurrent tumour. The PC1/3 expression was analysed by both immunohistochemistry and quantitative real time-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) in primary and recurrent tumours. The immunohistochemical PC1/3 expression was negative or weak in the three patients in the initial phase of SCA, while a strong expression was observed in the majority of neoplastic cells in tissue specimens obtained from the same three patients at the time of recurrence as CD. The immunohistochemical PC1/3 expression showed a strict correlation with the PC1/3 levels obtained by qRT-PCR. In 14 cases of SCA with no change of phenotype during the follow-up, the immunohistochemical PC1/3 expression was low and strictly associated with the level of PC1/3 obtained by qRT-PCR both in primary (14/14 cases) and in recurrent tumours (4/4 cases). Our study provides insight into the crucial role of the PC1/3 protein in the transformation of phenotype from SCA to CD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Aug 4 2016


  • Cushing’s disease
  • Metamorphosis
  • Pituitary adenoma
  • Prohormone convertase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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