Pituitary hypoplasia in patients with a mutation in the growth hormone- releasing hormone receptor gene

Robert A. Murray, Hiralal G. Maheshwari, Eric J. Russell, Gerhard Baumann*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Several anatomic abnormalities of the pituitary gland have been described as occurring in association with congenital growth hormone deficiency, including hypoplasia of the adenohypophysis, truncation of the pituitary stalk, and ectopia of the neurohypophysis. Their pathogenesis, however, is obscure. Normal pituitary development is dependent on the sequential expression of a series of ontogenetic factors. Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH) is known to stimulate somatotroph proliferation, and a dwarf mouse model with a mutant GHRH receptor, the 'little mouse,' has a small anterior pituitary due to hypoplasia of the somatotrophs. We recently described the human homolog of the little mouse (dwarfism of Sindh), caused by a homozygous nonsense mutation in the GHRH receptor gene in a Pakistani kindred. We investigated MR imaging characteristics to gain information regarding the potential role of GHRH in human pituitary organogenesis. METHODS: MR images of the head were obtained of four affected male patients (age range, 22-29 years). Maximal anterior pituitary dimensions were determined from sagittal and coronal images, and pituitary volumes were estimated from cubic and ellipsoid formulae. The measurements were compared with normative values matched for age and sex. RESULTS: The adenohypophysis was small in each of the four patients. The maximal height for the anterior pituitary was 3 mm in three patients and 2 mm in one (mean ± SD, 2.75 ± 0.5 mm), which is significantly (P < .001) less than the expected height of 5.6 ± 1.0 mm for men in this age group. Estimates of anterior pituitary volume in the patients ranged from 75 to 124 mm3 (104 ± 21 mm3), which corresponds to 35% to 52% of the normal mean volume corrected for small head size (P < .005). No other cranial abnormalities were identified. CONCLUSION: We describe significant hypoplasia of the adenohypophysis occurring in four dwarfs with a nonsense mutation in the GHRH receptor. In addition to isolated growth hormone deficiency and severe dwarfism, affected patients have anterior pituitary hypoplasia, presumably due to somatotroph maldevelopment. Resistance to GHRH explains the hypoplasia of the adenohypophysis - a feature that contributes to growth hormone deficiency in this syndrome. This is one of the few instances in which the molecular basis of pituitary dysmorphogenesis has been identified.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)685-689
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Clinical Neurology


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