Genes regulating hypothalamic and pituitary development

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Several pituitary transcription factors have been identified in the last 3 years. They offer new insights into the processes that direct organogenesis, cell commitment, proliferation and differentiated function. All are DNA‐binding proteins, but they have ties to different families of homeodomain proteins. They differ in their distribution and in the timing of their appearance and extinction. The Rathke's pouch homeobox protein (Rpx) has a paired‐like homeodomain. In mice, it appears on embryonic day 8.5 (day e8.5) and is gone by day e14.5. Its targets for activation are unknown. Pituitary OTX has a tryptophan—phenylalanine—lysine motif in its homeodomain. It appears early and persists. It shows independent activation of the α‐glycoprotein subunit (α‐GSU) and pro‐opiomelanocortin genes and co‐operates with Pit‐1 in activation of the growth hormone and prolactin genes. Pituitary Lim (P‐Lim) protein also acts independently on the α‐GSU gene, and acts in concert with Pit‐1 to activate other genes. A fourth protein, termed the ‘Prophet of Pit‐1’, or Prop‐1, is the recently discovered cause of Ames dwarfism in mice. This paired‐like protein is necessary for the subsequent expression of Pit‐1 in somatotrophs, lactotrophs and thyrotrophs. Any or all of the newly discovered pituitary genes are candidates for mutations causing hypopituitarism in humans. As several are expressed transiently in tissues other than the pituitary during organogenesis, the phenotypes produced by mutations in these genes may prove to be complex. □ Pituitary, transcription, organogenesis, homeobox, homeodomain, mutations, somatotrophs, lactotrophs, thyrotrophs, RPX, P‐OTX, P‐Lim, Prop‐1, Pit‐1

Document Type: Review Article


Affiliations: Division of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes, Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Publication date: November 1, 1997

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