SALL1 was originally identified on the basis of its DNA sequence homology to the region-specific homeotic gene Sal, in Drosophila melanogaster, which acts as a downstream target of hedgehog/tumor growth factor-beta-like decapentaplegic signals. The SALL1 gene has been associated with the Townes-Brocks Syndrome (TBS), a disorder characterized by multiorgan dysgenesis including renal and genital malformations. In this study, SALL1 message production was evaluated in association with the tissue localization of the protein product of SALL1, p140. SALL1 protein expression was observed in various adult and fetal tissues which elaborate reproductive endocrine hormones. The p140 was localized in specific microanatomic sites of the pituitary, adrenal cortex and the placenta. In the human pituitary, SALL1 protein expression was limited to the adenohypophysis, where it colocalized to those cells producing GH and the gonadotropins, LH and FSH. SALL1 expression was also found in most of the fetal and adult adrenal cortex in addition to the trophoblastic cells of the placenta. This pattern of expression complements prior studies demonstrating p140 in testicular fetal Leydig cells, adult Leydig and Sertoli cells, and granulosa cells of the ovary. The SALL1 protein was also shown here to be highly expressed in trophoblast tumors, which overproduce sex hormones. The expression patterns of SALL1 at multiple levels of the reproductive endocrine axis and the phenotypic effects associated with TBS suggest that SALL1 may have an important role in the interaction of the pituitary-adrenal/gonadal axis during reproduction.
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