TGFBR3L is associated with gonadotropin production in non-functioning gonadotroph pituitary neuroendocrine tumours

Pituitary. 2023 Apr;26(2):227-236. doi: 10.1007/s11102-023-01310-x. Epub 2023 Mar 23.


Purpose: Transforming growth factor-beta receptor 3-like (TGFBR3L) is a pituitary enriched membrane protein selectively detected in gonadotroph cells. TGFBR3L is named after transforming growth factor-beta receptor 3 (TGFBR3), an inhibin A co-receptor in mice, due to sequence identity to the C-terminal region. We aimed to characterize TGFBR3L detection in a well-characterized, prospectively collected cohort of non-functioning pituitary neuroendocrine tumours (NF-PitNETs) and correlate it to clinical data.

Methods: 144 patients operated for clinically NF-PitNETs were included. Clinical, radiological and biochemical data were recorded. Immunohistochemical (IHC) staining for FSHβ and LHβ was scored using the immunoreactive score (IRS), TGFBR3L and TGFBR3 were scored by the percentage of positive stained cells.

Results: TGFBR3L staining was selectively present in 52% of gonadotroph tumours. TGFBR3L was associated to IRS of LHβ (median 2 [IQR 0-3] in TGFBR3L negative and median 6 [IQR 3-9] in TGFBR3L positive tumours, p < 0.001), but not to the IRS of FSHβ (p = 0.32). The presence of TGFBR3L was negatively associated with plasma gonadotropin concentrations in males (P-FSH median 5.5 IU/L [IQR 2.9-9.6] and median 3.0 [IQR 1.8-5.6] in TGFBR3L negative and positive tumours respectively, p = 0.008) and P-LH (median 2.8 IU/L [IQR 1.9-3.7] and median 1.8 [IQR 1.1-3.0] in TGFBR3L negative and positive tumours respectively, p = 0.03). TGFBR3 stained positive in 22% (n = 25) of gonadotroph tumours with no correlation to TGFBR3L.

Conclusion: TGFBR3L was selectively detected in half (52%) of gonadotroph NF-PitNETs. The association to LHβ staining and plasma gonadotropins suggests that TGFBR3L may be involved in hormone production in gonadotroph NF-PitNETs.

Keywords: Pituitary adenomas; Plasma gonadotropins; Transforming growth factor beta receptor 3 (TGFBR3); Transforming growth factor beta receptor 3 like (TGFBR3L); Tumour volume.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone
  • Gonadotrophs* / metabolism
  • Gonadotropins
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors*
  • Pituitary Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Transforming Growth Factors / metabolism


  • Gonadotropins
  • Transforming Growth Factors
  • Follicle Stimulating Hormone