Involvement of the Pituitary-Specific Transcription Factor Pit-1 in Somatolactotrope Cell Growth and Death: An Approach Using Dominant-Negative Pit-1 Mutants


  • Pellegrini Isabelle
  • Roche Cathy
  • Quentien Marie-Helene
  • Ferrand Mireille
  • Gunz Ginette
  • Thirion Sylvie
  • Bagnis Claude
  • Enjalbert Alain
  • Franc Jean-Louis


The anterior pituitary-specific transcription factor Pit-1 was initially identified and cloned as a transactivator of the prolactin (PRL) and GH genes and later as a regulator of the TSHb gene. It was found to be a major developmental regulator, because natural Pit-1 gene mutations cause a dwarf phenotype in mice and cause combined pituitary hormone deficiency associated with pituitary hypoplasia in humans. To further investigate the growth-promoting effects of Pit-1, we used a strategy based on the use of dominant-negative Pit-1 mutants as an alternative means of inactivating endogenous Pit-1 functions. R271W, a Pit-1 mutant identified in one allele in patients with severe combined pituitary hormone deficiency, and Pit-1Delta1-123, a deletion mutant in which only the DNA binding domain of Pit-1 is conserved, were generated, and their ability to abolish the effects of the endogenous native Pit-1 in the differentiated proliferating somatolactotrope GH4C1 cell line was investigated. Enforced expression of the dominant-negative mutants in GH4C1 cells using recombinant lentiviral vectors decreased the levels of expression of known Pit-1 target genes such as PRL and GH, abolished the hormone release, and reduced cell viability by decreasing the growth rate and inducing apoptosis via a caspase-independent pathway. These results show for the first time that the growth-promoting effects of Pit-1 are at least partly due to the fact that this transcription factor prevents apoptotic cell death.

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