Stem cells/progenitors are being discovered in a growing number of adult tissues. They have been hypothesized for a long time to exist in the pituitary, especially because this gland is characterized by its plasticity as it constantly adapts its hormonal response to evolving needs, under the control of the hypothalamus. Recently, five labs have reported the presence of adult progenitors in the gland and shown their endocrine differentiation potential, using different in vitro assays, selection methods and markers to purify and characterize these similar cell populations. These will be discussed here, highlighting common points, and also differences. Thanks to these recent developments it is now possible to integrate progenitors into the physiology of the gland, and uncover their participation in normal but also pathological situations. Moreover, experimental situations inducing generation of new endocrine cells can now be re-visited in light of the involvement of progenitors, and also used to better understand their role. Some of these aspects will also be developed in this review.
© 2010 Medical Research Council. European Journal of Neuroscience © 2010 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.