Telomere length alterations and ATRX/DAXX loss in pituitary adenomas

Christopher M. Heaphy, Wenya Linda Bi, Shannon Coy, Christine Davis, Gary L. Gallia, Sandro Santagata, Fausto J. Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Telomeres are nucleoprotein complexes located at the termini of eukaryotic chromosomes that prevent exonucleolytic degradation and end-to-end chromosomal fusions. Cancers often have critically shortened, dysfunctional telomeres contributing to genomic instability. Telomere shortening has been reported in a wide range of precancerous lesions and invasive carcinomas. However, the role of telomere alterations, including the presence of alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT), has not been studied in pituitary adenomas. Telomere length and the presence of ALT were assessed directly at the single cell level using a telomere-specific fluorescence in situ hybridization assay in tissue microarrays. Tumors were characterized as either ALT-positive or having short, normal, or long telomere lengths and then these categories were compared with clinicopathological characteristics. ATRX and DAXX expression was studied through immunohistochemistry. We characterized a discovery set of 106 pituitary adenomas including both functional and nonfunctional subsets (88 primary, 18 recurrent). Telomere lengths were estimated and we observed 64 (59.4%) cases with short, 39 (36.8%) cases with normal, and 0 (0%) cases with long telomeres. We did not observe significant differences in the clinicopathological characteristics of the group with abnormally shortened telomeres compared to the group with normal telomeres. However, three pituitary adenomas were identified as ALT-positive of which two were recurrent tumors. Two of these three ALT-positive cases had alterations in either of the chromatin remodeling proteins, ATRX and DAXX, which are routinely altered in other ALT-positive tumor subtypes. In a second cohort of 32 recurrent pituitary adenomas from 22 patients, we found that the tumors from 36% of patients (n = 8) were ALT-positive. This study demonstrates that short telomere lengths are prevalent in pituitary adenomas and that ALT-positive pituitary adenomas are enriched in recurrent disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1475-1481
Number of pages7
JournalModern Pathology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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