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The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a family of zinc-containing endopeptidases that are able to degrade the extracellular matrix and allow angiogenesis and tumor invasion. The vast majority of pituitary tumors are benign and do not metastasize to distant sites, although they may invade locally. The aim of this study was to determine whether expression of the collagenase MMP-9 may play a role in allowing angiogenesis and invasion by different pituitary tumor types. Tumor expression of MMP-9 was investigated using a monoclonal antibody on a series of well-characterized paraffin-embedded sections of pituitary tumors. Invasive macroprolactinomas (n = 11) were significantly more likely to express MMP-9 than noninvasive macroprolactinomas (n = 8) (P = 0.003). Invasive macroprolactinomas showed higher-density MMP-9 staining than noninvasive tumors (P < 0.05). MMP-9 expression did not differ between noninvasive tumors and normal pituitary gland, or between different sized prolactinomas. MMP-9 expression was related to aggressive tumor behavior. It was higher in invasive macroprolactinomas (P = 0.003) when compared with noninvasive macroprolactinomas or the normal anterior pituitary gland. In addition, although there was no difference in whether MMP-9 was present or not when nonfunctioning adenomas that recurred were compared with those that did not, samples of recurrent tumor at the second presentation were more likely to express MMP-9 (P = 0.01). Pituitary carcinomas were significantly more likely to be MMP-9 positive compared with normal anterior pituitary gland (P = 0.05), but there was no difference from invasive adenomas. Angiogenesis assessed by vascular density was related to MMP-9 expression (P < 0.05). In summary, we have shown the presence of MMP-9 expression in some invasive and recurrent pituitary adenomas, and in the majority of pituitary carcinoma. The mechanisms whereby MMP-9 expression influences tumor recurrence and invasiveness, and its association with angiogenesis, remains to be elucidated. However, these observations suggest that a future potential therapeutic strategy for some pituitary tumors may be administration of a synthetic MMP-9 inhibitor.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Endocrinol Metab

Publication Date





2931 - 2935


Adenoma, Carcinoma, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Matrix Metalloproteinase 9, Neoplasm Invasiveness, Neoplasm Recurrence, Local, Neovascularization, Pathologic, Pituitary Gland, Anterior, Pituitary Neoplasms, Prolactin, Prolactinoma