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Folliculo-stellate cells of "true dendritic" type are involved in the inflammatory microenvironment of tumor immunosurveillance of pituitary adenomas

Istvan Vajtai1*, Andreas Kappeler2 and Rahel Sahli3

Author Affiliations

1 Section of Neuropathology, Institute of Pathology, University of Bern, Switzerland

2 Laboratory of Diagnostic Immunohistochemistry, Institute of Pathology, University of Bern, Switzerland

3 Department of Endocrinology and Diabetology, University Hospital (Inselspital) Bern, Switzerland

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Diagnostic Pathology 2007, 2:20  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-2-20

Published: 27 June 2007


Folliculo-stellate cells are a nonendocrine, sustentacular-like complementary population of the anterior pituitary. They currently are considered as functionally and phenotypically heterogeneous, with one subpopulation of folliculo-stellate cells possibly representing resident adenohypophyseal macrophages. We took advantage of a limited T-cell mediated inflammatory reaction selectively involving tumor tissue in three cases of pituitary adenoma (2 prolactin cell adenomas, and 1 null cell adenoma) to test the hypothesis whether some folliculo-stellate cells within inflammatory foci would also assume monocytic/dendritic properties. Immunohistochemical double labeling for S-100 protein and the class II major histocompatibility antigen HLA-DR indeed showed several arborized cells to coexpress both epitopes. These were distributed both amidst adenomatous acini and along intratumoral vessels, and were morphologically undistinguishable from conventional folliculo-stellate cells. On the other hand, markers of follicular dendritic cells (CD21) and Langerhans' cells (CD1a) tested negative. Furthermore, no S-100/HLA-DR coexpressing folliculo-stellate cells were seen in either peritumoral parenchyma of the cases in point nor in control pituitary adenomas lacking inflammatory reaction. These findings suggest that a subset of folliculo-stellate cells may be induced by an appropriate local inflammatory microenvironment to assume a dendritic cell-like immunophenotype recognizable by their coexpression of S-100 protein and HLA-DR. By analogy with HLA-DR expressing cells in well-established extrapituitary inflammatory constellations, we speculate that folliculo-stellate cells with such immunophenotype may actually perform professional antigen presentation. A distinctly uncommon finding in pituitary adenomas, lymphocytic infiltrates may therefore be read as a manifestation of tumoral immunosurveillance.