Pituitary stalk interruption syndrome

Handb Clin Neurol. 2021:181:9-27. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-820683-6.00002-6.


Pituitary stalk interruption syndrome (PSIS) is a distinct developmental defect of the pituitary gland identified by magnetic resonance imaging and characterized by a thin, interrupted, attenuated or absent pituitary stalk, hypoplasia or aplasia of the adenohypophysis, and an ectopic posterior pituitary. The precise etiology of PSIS still remains elusive or incompletely confirmed in most cases. Adverse perinatal events, including breech delivery and hypoxia, were initially proposed as the underlying mechanism affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. Nevertheless, recent findings have uncovered a wide variety of PSIS-associated molecular defects in genes involved in pituitary development, holoprosencephaly (HPE), neural development, and other important cellular processes such as cilia function. The application of whole exome sequencing (WES) in relatively large cohorts has identified an expanded pool of potential candidate genes, mostly related to the Wnt, Notch, and sonic hedgehog signaling pathways that regulate pituitary growth and development during embryogenesis. Importantly, WES has revealed coexisting pathogenic variants in a significant number of patients; therefore, pointing to a multigenic origin and inheritance pattern of PSIS. The disorder is characterized by inter- and intrafamilial variability and incomplete or variable penetrance. Overall, PSIS is currently viewed as a mild form of an expanded HPE spectrum. The wide and complex clinical manifestations include evolving pituitary hormone deficiencies (with variable timing of onset and progression) and extrapituitary malformations. Severe and life-threatening symptomatology is observed in a subset of patients with complete pituitary hormone deficiency during the neonatal period. Nevertheless, most patients are referred later in childhood for growth retardation. Prompt and appropriate hormone substitution therapy constitutes the cornerstone of treatment. Further studies are needed to uncover the etiopathogenesis of PSIS.

Keywords: CPHD; Combined pituitary hormone deficiency; Growth hormone deficiency; Midline defects; PSIS; Pituitary stalk interruption syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Hedgehog Proteins
  • Humans
  • Hypopituitarism* / genetics
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Pituitary Diseases* / genetics
  • Pituitary Gland
  • Pregnancy
  • Syndrome


  • Hedgehog Proteins