Heparanase Is Highly Expressed and Regulates Proliferation in GH-Secreting Pituitary Tumor Cells

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Pituitary tumorigenesis involves remodeling of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Heparanase, an endoglycosidase capable of degrading heparan sulfate, a major polysaccharide constituent of the ECM, is implicated in diverse processes associated with ECM remodeling, such as morphogenesis, angiogenesis, and tumor invasion. The aim of this study was to investigate the possible role of heparanase in pituitary tumorigenesis. Human normal pituitaries and pituitary tumors were examined for heparanase mRNA and protein expression using real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry, respectively. Cell proliferation was assessed by colony formation after heparanase overexpression in GH3 and MtT/S cells. Cell viability and cell cycle progression were evaluated after heparanase gene silencing. Higher heparanase mRNA and protein expression was noted in GH tumors as compared with normal pituitaries. Heparanase overexpression in GH3 and MtT/S cells resulted in a 2- to 3-fold increase in colony number, compared with control cells. Cell viability decreased by 50% after heparanase gene silencing due to induced apoptosis reflected by increased fraction of cleaved poly-ADP-ribose polymerase and sub-G1 events. Notably, exogenously added heparanase enhanced epidermal growth factor receptor, Src, Akt, ERK, and p38 phosphorylation in pituitary tumor cells. Our results indicate that heparanase enhances pituitary cell viability and proliferation and may thus contribute to pituitary tumor development and progression.

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