Zebrafish pit1 mutants lack three pituitary cell types and develop severe dwarfism

Gabriela Nica, Wiebke Herzog, Carmen Sonntag, Matthias Hammerschmidt

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The Pou domain transcription factor Pit-1 is required for lineage determination and cellular commitment processes during mammalian adenohypophysis development. Here we report the cloning and mutational analysis of a pit1 homolog from zebrafish. Compared with mouse, zebrafish pit1 starts to be expressed at a much earlier stage of adenohypophysis development. However, as in the mouse, expression is restricted to a subset of pituitary cell types, excluding proopiomelanocortin (pomc)-expressing cells (corticotropes, melanotropes) and possibly gonadotropes. We could identify two N-ethyl-N-nitrosourea-induced zebrafish pit1 null mutants. Most mutants die during larval stages, whereas survivors develop severe dwarfism. Mutant larvae lack lactotropes, somatotropes, and thyrotropes, although the adenohypophysis is of normal size, without any sign of increased apoptosis rates. Instead, mutant embryos initiate ectopic expression of pomc in pit1-positive cells, leading to an expansion of the Pomc lineage. Similarly, the number of gonadotropes seems increased, as indicated by the expression of gsualpha, a marker for thyrotropes and gonadotropes. In pit1 mutants, the total number of gsualpha-positive cells is normal despite the loss of gsualpha and tshbeta coexpressing cells. Together, these data suggest a transfating of the Pit1 lineage to the Pomc and possibly the gonadotroph lineages in the mutant, and a pomc- and gonadotropin-repressive role of Pit1 during normal zebrafish development. This is different from mouse, for which a repressive role of Pit-1 has only been reported for the gonadotropin Lhbeta, but not for Pomc. In sum, our data point to both conserved and class-specific aspects of Pit1 function during pituitary development in different vertebrate species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1196 - 1209
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Endocrinology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes

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