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Blerina Kola and Márta Korbonits

Ghrelin, a hormone primarily produced by the stomach, has a wide range of metabolic and non-metabolic effects. It also stimulates food intake through activation of various hypothalamic and brain stem neurons. A series of recent studies have explored the intracellular mechanisms of the appetite-inducing effect of ghrelin in the hypothalamus, shedding light on the intricate mechanisms of appetite regulation. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a key metabolic enzyme involved in appetite regulation. Calmodulin kinase kinase 2 (CaMKK2) has been identified as an upstream kinase of AMPK and a key mediator in the effect of ghrelin on AMPK activity. The fatty acid pathway, hypothalamic mitochondrial respiration, and uncoupling protein 2 have been outlined as downstream targets of AMPK and mediators of ghrelin's appetite stimulating effect. This short overview summarises the present data in this field.

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Giampaolo Trivellin and Márta Korbonits

Germline mutations in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor-interacting protein gene (AIP) predispose to young-onset pituitary tumours, most often to GH- or prolactin-secreting adenomas, and most of these patients belong to familial isolated pituitary adenoma families. The molecular pathway initiated by the loss-of-function AIP mutations leading to pituitary tumour formation is unknown. AIP, a co-chaperone of heat-shock protein 90 and various nuclear receptors, belongs to the family of tetratricopeptide repeat (TPR)-containing proteins. It has three antiparallel α-helix motifs (TPR domains) that mediate the interaction of AIP with most of its partners. In this review, we summarise the known interactions of AIP described so far. The identification of AIP partners and the understanding of how AIP interacts with these proteins might help to explain the specific phenotype of the families with heterozygous AIP mutations, to gain deeper insight into the pathological process of pituitary tumour formation and to identify novel drug targets.

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Alejandro Ibáñez-Costa and Márta Korbonits

Classic somatostatin analogues aimed at somatostatin receptor type 2, such as octreotide and lanreotide, represent the mainstay of medical treatment for acromegaly. These agents have the potential to decrease hormone secretion and reduce tumour size. Patients with a germline mutation in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor-interacting protein gene, AIP, develop young-onset acromegaly, poorly responsive to pharmacological therapy. In this review, we summarise the most recent studies on AIP-related pituitary adenomas, paying special attention to the causes of somatostatin resistance; the somatostatin receptor profile including type 2, type 5 and truncated variants; the role of G proteins in this pathology; the use of first and second generation somatostatin analogues; and the role of ZAC1, a zinc-finger protein with expression linked to AIP in somatotrophinoma models and acting as a key mediator of octreotide response.

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Sara Pepe, Márta Korbonits and Donato Iacovazzo

While 95% of pituitary adenomas arise sporadically without a known inheritable predisposing mutation, in about 5% of the cases they can arise in a familial setting, either isolated (familial isolated pituitary adenoma or FIPA) or as part of a syndrome. FIPA is caused, in 15–30% of all kindreds, by inactivating mutations in the AIP gene, encoding a co-chaperone with a vast array of interacting partners and causing most commonly growth hormone excess. While the mechanisms linking AIP with pituitary tumorigenesis have not been fully understood, they are likely to involve several pathways, including the cAMP-dependent protein kinase A pathway via defective G inhibitory protein signalling or altered interaction with phosphodiesterases. The cAMP pathway is also affected by other conditions predisposing to pituitary tumours, including X-linked acrogigantism caused by duplications of the GPR101 gene, encoding an orphan G stimulatory protein-coupled receptor. Activating mosaic mutations in the GNAS gene, coding for the Gα stimulatory protein, cause McCune–Albright syndrome, while inactivating mutations in the regulatory type 1α subunit of protein kinase A represent the most frequent genetic cause of Carney complex, a syndromic condition with multi-organ manifestations also involving the pituitary gland. In this review, we discuss the genetic and molecular aspects of isolated and syndromic familial pituitary adenomas due to germline or mosaic mutations, including those secondary to AIP and GPR101 mutations, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 and 4, Carney complex, McCune–Albright syndrome, DICER1 syndrome and mutations in the SDHx genes underlying the association of familial paragangliomas and phaeochromocytomas with pituitary adenomas.

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Miski Scerif, Tamás Füzesi, Julia D Thomas, Blerina Kola, Ashley B Grossman, Csaba Fekete and Márta Korbonits

AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), a regulator of cellular and systemic energy homeostasis, can be influenced by several hormones. Tissue-specific alteration of AMPK activity by glucocorticoids may explain the increase in appetite, the accumulation of lipids in adipose tissues, and the detrimental cardiac effects of Cushing's syndrome. Endocannabinoids are known to mediate the effects of various hormones and to influence AMPK activity. Cannabinoids have central orexigenic and direct peripheral metabolic effects via the cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1). In our preliminary experiments, WT mice received implants of a corticosterone-containing pellet to establish a mouse model of Cushing's syndrome. Subsequently, WT and Cb1 (Cnr1)-knockout (CB1-KO) littermates were treated with corticosterone and AMPK activity in the hypothalamus, various adipose tissues, liver and cardiac tissue was measured. Corticosterone-treated CB1-KO mice showed a lack of weight gain and of increase in hypothalamic and hepatic AMPK activity. In adipose tissues, baseline AMPK activity was higher in CB1-KO mice, but a glucocorticoid-induced drop was observed, similar to that observed in WT mice. Cardiac AMPK levels were reduced in CB1-KO mice, but while WT mice showed significantly reduced AMPK activity following glucocorticoid treatment, CB1-KO mice showed a paradoxical increase. Our findings indicate the importance of the CB1 receptor in the central orexigenic effect of glucocorticoid-induced activation of hypothalamic AMPK activity. In the periphery adipose tissues, changes may occur independently of the CB1 receptor, but the receptor appears to alter the responsiveness of the liver and myocardial tissues to glucocorticoids. In conclusion, our data suggest that an intact cannabinoid pathway is required for the full metabolic effects of chronic glucocorticoid excess.