Validation of Myc-Associated Protein X (MAX) regulation in growth hormone secreting and nonfunctional pituitary adenoma

PLoS One. 2023 Apr 27;18(4):e0284949. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0284949. eCollection 2023.


Introduction: Many patients with growth hormone-secreting pituitary adenoma (GHPA) fail to achieve biochemical remission, warranting investigation into epigenetic and molecular signatures associated with tumorigenesis and hormonal secretion. Prior work exploring the DNA methylome showed Myc-Associated Protein X (MAX), a transcription factor involved in cell cycle regulation, was differentially methylated between GHPA and nonfunctional pituitary adenoma (NFPA). We aimed to validate the differential DNA methylation and related MAX protein expression profiles between NFPA and GHPA.

Methods: DNA methylation levels were measured in 52 surgically resected tumors (37 NFPA, 15 GHPA) at ~100,000 known MAX binding sites derived using ChIP-seq analysis from ENCODE. Findings were correlated with MAX protein expression using a constructed tissue microarray (TMA). Gene ontology analysis was performed to explore downstream genetic and signaling pathways regulated by MAX.

Results: GHPA had more hypomethylation events across all known MAX binding sites. Of binding sites defined using ChIP-seq analysis, 1,551 sites had significantly different methylation patterns between the two cohorts; 432 occurred near promoter regions potentially regulated by MAX, including promoters of TNF and MMP9. Gene ontology analysis suggested enrichment in genes involved in oxygen response, immune system regulation, and cell proliferation. Thirteen MAX binding sites were within coding regions of genes. GHPA demonstrated significantly increased expression of MAX protein compared to NFPA.

Conclusion: GHPA have significantly different DNA methylation and downstream protein expression levels of MAX compared to NFPA. These differences may influence mechanisms involved with cellular proliferation, tumor invasion and hormonal secretion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma* / pathology
  • Growth Hormone
  • Growth Hormone-Secreting Pituitary Adenoma* / complications
  • Growth Hormone-Secreting Pituitary Adenoma* / genetics
  • Human Growth Hormone*
  • Humans
  • Pituitary Neoplasms* / pathology


  • Growth Hormone
  • Human Growth Hormone
  • MAX protein, human