TSH-secreting pituitary tumors (TSHomas) are pituitary tumors that constitutively secrete TSH. Molecular mechanisms underlying this abnormality are largely undefined. We recently created a knock-in mutant mouse harboring a mutation (denoted as PV) in the thyroid hormone receptor-β gene (TRβPV/PV mouse). As these mice age, they spontaneously develop TSHomas. Using this mouse model, we investigated the role of the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-AKT signaling pathway in the pathogenesis of TSHomas. Concurrent with aberrant growth of pituitaries, AKT and its downstream effectors, mammalian target rapamycin and p70S6K,were activated to contribute to increased cell proliferation and pituitary growth. In addition, activation of AKT led to decreased apoptosis by inhibiting proapoptotic activity of Bcl-2-associated death promoter, further contributing to the aberrant cell proliferation. These results suggest an activated PI3K-AKT pathway could underscore tumorigenesis, raising the possibility that this pathway could be a potential therapeutic target in TSHomas. Indeed, TRβPV/PV mice treated with a PI3K-specific inhibitor, LY294002, showed a significant decrease in pituitary growth. The progrowth signaling via AKT-mammalian target rapamycin p70S6K and cyclin D1/cyclin-dependent kinase were inhibited, and proapoptotic activity of Bcl-2-associated death promoter was increased by LY294002 treatment. Thus, activation of the PI3K-AKT pathway mediates, at least in part, the aberrant pituitary growth, and the intervention of this signaling pathway presents a novel therapeutic opportunity for TSHomas.
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