Bacterial Endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide) Stimulates Interleukin-6 Production and Inhibits Growth of Pituitary Tumour Cells Expressing the Toll-Like Receptor 4


Dr Ulrich Renner, Max-Planck-Institute of Psychiatry, Neuroendocrinology Group, Kraepelinstrasse 10, D-80804 Munich, Germany (e-mail:


Members of the Toll receptor (Tlr) family have a crucial role in the innate immune response following bacterial infection. The effects of Gram-negative bacteria-derived endotoxins (lipopolysaccharide, LPS) are predominantly mediated by Tlr4, and we have recently shown that pituitary folliculostellate cells express functional Tlr4. In the present study, we investigated whether Tlr4 is also present in normal and transformed endocrine epithelial pituitary cell types. By reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction, Tlr4 mRNA expression was found in some pituitary epithelial tumour cell lines (AtT20, HP75), whereas others were negative (GH3, αT3-1). Tlr4 protein was detected by immunohistochemistry in a few epithelial cells in normal human anterior pituitaries and in 26 out of 67 human pituitary tumours analysed. LPS had no effect on adrenocorticotropic hormone secretion in Tlr4-positive AtT20 cells, but it suppressed the growth of these cells in a dose-dependent manner. As expected, neither hormone secretion, nor growth of Tlr4-negative GH3 cells was affected by LPS. In cell cultures of Tlr4-positive pituitary adenomas, LPS dose-dependently stimulated the production of interleukin (IL)-6, which is known to induce growth and hormone production in pituitary tumours. The LPS-induced IL-6 production was blocked by the specific p38αMAP kinase inhibitor, SB203580, and by the synthetic glucocorticoid, dexamethasone. The data suggest that, during Gram-negative bacteria-induced infections or inflammatory processes, LPS could affect pituitary tumour pathophysiology and progression in the subset of Tlr4-expressing pituitary adenomas.