POU domain factors in the neuroendocrine system: lessons from developmental biology provide insights into human disease

Endocr Rev. 2001 Feb;22(1):2-35. doi: 10.1210/edrv.22.1.0421.


POU domain factors are transcriptional regulators characterized by a highly conserved DNA-binding domain referred to as the POU domain. The structure of the POU domain has been solved, facilitating the understanding of how these proteins bind to DNA and regulate transcription via complex protein-protein interactions. Several members of the POU domain family have been implicated in the control of development and function of the neuroendocrine system. Such roles have been most clearly established for Pit-1, which is required for formation of somatotropes, lactotropes, and thyrotropes in the anterior pituitary gland, and for Brn-2, which is critical for formation of magnocellular and parvocellular neurons in the paraventricular and supraoptic nuclei of the hypothalamus. While genetic evidence is lacking, molecular biology experiments have implicated several other POU factors in the regulation of gene expression in the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Pit-1 mutations in humans cause combined pituitary hormone deficiency similar to that found in mice deleted for the Pit-1 gene, providing a striking example of how basic developmental biology studies have provided important insights into human disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology
  • Humans
  • Multigene Family*
  • Neurosecretory Systems / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / physiology


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors