Despite the importance of the RAS-RAF-MAPK pathway in normal physiology and disease of numerous organs, its role during pituitary development and tumourigenesis remains largely unknown. Here, we show that the over-activation of the MAPK pathway, through conditional expression of the gain-of-function alleles BrafV600E and KrasG12D in the developing mouse pituitary, results in severe hyperplasia and abnormal morphogenesis of the gland by the end of gestation. Cell-lineage commitment and terminal differentiation are disrupted, leading to a significant reduction in numbers of most of the hormone-producing cells before birth, with the exception of corticotrophs. Of note, Sox2+ stem cells and clonogenic potential are drastically increased in the mutant pituitaries. Finally, we reveal that papillary craniopharyngioma (PCP), a benign human pituitary tumour harbouring BRAF p.V600E also contains Sox2+ cells with sustained proliferative capacity and disrupted pituitary differentiation. Together, our data demonstrate a crucial function of the MAPK pathway in controlling the balance between proliferation and differentiation of Sox2+ cells and suggest that persistent proliferative capacity of Sox2+ cells may underlie the pathogenesis of PCP.
Keywords: Mouse; Papillary craniopharyngioma; Pituitary development; Sox2; Tumour.
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