Expression of FOXL2 in human normal pituitaries and pituitary adenomas

Mod Pathol. 2011 Jun;24(6):765-73. doi: 10.1038/modpathol.2010.169. Epub 2011 Apr 8.


Many transcription factors have important roles in the function and differentiation of the human pituitary adenomas. Forkhead box gene transcription factor L2, Foxl2, is expressed during mouse pituitary development and co-localizes with the expression of α-glycoprotein hormone subunit (αGSU). In addition, Foxl2 regulates expression of the αGSU gene (Cga) in cell culture. To elucidate the functional role of FOXL2 in the human pituitary, we examined the expression and localization of FOXL2 in normal human pituitaries and various types of pituitary adenomas. Human pituitary adenomas were obtained by trans-sphenoidal surgery from 67 patients. Three normal adult pituitaries were obtained from autopsies of non-endocrine cases. The localization of FOXL2 and pituitary hormones in these pituitary patients was examined by immunohistochemical staining and RT-PCR. Quantitative analysis of FOXL2 protein was performed by immunoblotting. FOXL2 was localized in the nuclei of ∼20% of normal pituitary cells that also co-expressed gonadotropins including follicule-stimulating hormone β (FSHβ), luteinizing hormone β (LHβ), and αGSU, whereas it was observed in minor proportion of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)-producing cells, prolactin (PRL)-producing cells, and precursor of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-producing cells. FOXL2 immunoreactivity was not detected in growth hormone (GH)-producing cells or S100-positive folliculo-stellate cells. In human pituitary adenomas, FOXL2 was expressed in the nuclei of the adenoma cells. FOXL2 was detected in 13 of 15 gonadotropin-subunit-producing adenoma (Gn-oma) cases and 8 of 11 null cell adenoma cases, but its incidence was reduced or not detected in the other types of adenomas. The results of this study suggest that FOXL2 contributes to the human-specific functional expression and the differentiation of gonadotroph cells and adenomas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / genetics*
  • Adenoma / metabolism*
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Forkhead Box Protein L2
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pituitary Gland / metabolism*
  • Pituitary Gland / pathology
  • Pituitary Hormones / metabolism
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Young Adult


  • FOXL2 protein, human
  • Forkhead Box Protein L2
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Pituitary Hormones
  • RNA, Messenger