The Molecular Basis of Congenital Hypopituitarism and Related Disorders

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2020 Jun 1;105(6):dgz184. doi: 10.1210/clinem/dgz184.


Context: Congenital hypopituitarism (CH) is characterized by the presence of deficiencies in one or more of the 6 anterior pituitary (AP) hormones secreted from the 5 different specialized cell types of the AP. During human embryogenesis, hypothalamo-pituitary (HP) development is controlled by a complex spatio-temporal genetic cascade of transcription factors and signaling molecules within the hypothalamus and Rathke's pouch, the primordium of the AP.

Evidence acquisition: This mini-review discusses the genes and pathways involved in HP development and how mutations of these give rise to CH. This may present in the neonatal period or later on in childhood and may be associated with craniofacial midline structural abnormalities such as cleft lip/palate, visual impairment due to eye abnormalities such as optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH) and microphthalmia or anophthalmia, or midline forebrain neuroradiological defects including agenesis of the septum pellucidum or corpus callosum or the more severe holoprosencephaly.

Evidence synthesis: Mutations give rise to an array of highly variable disorders ranging in severity. There are many known causative genes in HP developmental pathways that are routinely screened in CH patients; however, over the last 5 years this list has rapidly increased due to the identification of variants in new genes and pathways of interest by next-generation sequencing.

Conclusion: The majority of patients with these disorders do not have an identified molecular basis, often making management challenging. This mini-review aims to guide clinicians in making a genetic diagnosis based on patient phenotype, which in turn may impact on clinical management.

Keywords: congenital hypopituitarism; endocrine; hypothalamus development; pituitary development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Hypopituitarism / congenital*
  • Hypopituitarism / genetics
  • Hypopituitarism / metabolism
  • Hypopituitarism / pathology*
  • Mutation*
  • Prognosis
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors