MAPK activation and HRAS mutation identified in pituitary spindle cell oncocytoma

Oncotarget. 2016 Jun 14;7(24):37054-37063. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.9244.


Pituitary spindle cell oncocytoma (SCO) is an uncommon primary pituitary neoplasm that presents with mass effect on adjacent neurovascular structures, similar to non-hormone-producing pituitary adenomas. To determine the molecular etiology of SCO, we performed exome sequencing on four SCO cases, with matched normal controls, to assess somatic mutations and copy number alterations. Our analysis revealed a low mutation rate and a copy-neutral profile, consistent with the low-grade nature of this tumor. However, we identified a co-occurring somatic HRAS (p.Q61R) activating point mutation and MEN1 frameshift mutation (p.L117fs) present in a primary and recurrent tumor from one patient. Other SCOs demonstrated mutations in SND1 and FAT1, which are associated with MAPK pathway activation. Immunohistochemistry across the SCO cohort demonstrated robust MAPK activity in all cases (n=4), as evidenced by strong phospho-ERK staining, while phospho-AKT levels suggested only basal levels of PI3K pathway activation. Taken together, this identifies the MAPK signaling pathway as a novel therapeutic target for spindle cell oncocytoma, which may offer a powerful adjunct for aggressive tumors refractory to surgical resection.

Keywords: HRAS; MAPK; genomics; pituitary; spindle cell oncocytoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / genetics*
  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / metabolism
  • Aged
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Humans
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics*


  • HRAS protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)