Requirement of FAT and DCHS protocadherins during hypothalamic-pituitary development

JCI Insight. 2020 Oct 27;5(23):e134310. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.134310.


Pituitary developmental defects lead to partial or complete hormone deficiency and significant health problems. The majority of cases are sporadic and of unknown cause. We screened 28 patients with pituitary stalk interruption syndrome (PSIS) for mutations in the FAT/DCHS family of protocadherins that have high functional redundancy. We identified seven variants, four of which putatively damaging, in FAT2 and DCHS2 in six patients with pituitary developmental defects recruited through a cohort of patients with mostly ectopic posterior pituitary gland and/or pituitary stalk interruption. All patients had growth hormone deficiency and two presented with multiple hormone deficiencies and small glands. FAT2 and DCHS2 were strongly expressed in the mesenchyme surrounding the normal developing human pituitary. We analyzed Dchs2-/- mouse mutants and identified anterior pituitary hypoplasia and partially penetrant infundibular defects. Overlapping infundibular abnormalities and distinct anterior pituitary morphogenesis defects were observed in Fat4-/- and Dchs1-/- mouse mutants but all animal models displayed normal commitment to the anterior pituitary cell type. Together our data implicate FAT/DCHS protocadherins in normal hypothalamic-pituitary development and identify FAT2 and DCHS2 as candidates underlying pituitary gland developmental defects such as ectopic pituitary gland and/or pituitary stalk interruption.