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The neurotensin (NT) produced in the hypothalamus and in pituitary gonadotrophs and thyrotrophs participates in neuroendocrine regulation. Recently, the involvement of this peptide in normal and neoplastic cell proliferation has been postulated. In the present study, we evaluated the expression of NT and its receptors (NTR1, 2 and 3) in a series of 50 pituitary adenomas [11 growth hormone (GH)-, eight prolactin (PRL)-, four adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH)- and 27 nonfunctioning adenomas]. NT mRNA expression was significantly higher in functioning compared to nonfunctioning adenomas and with normal pituitary. Nonfunctioning pituitary adenomas showed lower expression of NT mRNA than normal pituitary. In the immunohistochemical study of functioning adenomas, NT was colocalised with GH, PRL and ACTH secreting cells. In nonfunctioning adenomas, the NT immunoreactivity intensity was variable among the samples. NTR3 mRNA expression was observed in all examined samples and was higher in the adenomas, both functioning and nonfunctioning, compared to normal pituitary. By contrast, NTR1 and NTR2 mRNA were not detected in either pituitary adenomas or normal tissue. The higher expression of NTR3, as well as the expression of NT by tumoural corticotrophs, lactotrophs and somatotrophs, which are cells types that do not express this peptide in the normal pituitary, suggests that NT autocrine and/or paracrine stimulation mediated by NTR3 may be a mechanism associated with the tumourigenesis of functioning adenomas.