Prenatal alcohol exposure increases the susceptibility to develop aggressive prolactinomas in the pituitary gland

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Excess alcohol use is known to promote development of aggressive tumors in various tissues in human patients, but the cause of alcohol promotion of tumor aggressiveness is not clearly understood. We used an animals model of fetal alcohol exposure that is known to promote tumor development and determined if alcohol programs the pituitary to acquire aggressive prolactin-secreting tumors. Our results show that pituitaries of fetal alcohol-exposed rats produced increased levels of intra-pituitary aromatase protein and plasma estrogen, enhanced pituitary tissue growth, and upon estrogen challenge developed prolactin-secreting tumors (prolactinomas) that were hemorrhagic and often penetrated into the surrounding tissue. Pituitary tumors of fetal alcohol-exposed rats produced higher levels of hemorrhage-associated genes and proteins and multipotency genes and proteins. Cells of pituitary tumor of fetal alcohol exposed rat grew into tumor spheres in ultra-low attachment plate, expressed multipotency genes, formed an increased number of colonies, showed enhanced cell migration, and induced solid tumors following inoculation in immunodeficient mice. These data suggest that fetal alcohol exposure programs the pituitary to develop aggressive prolactinoma after estrogen treatment possibly due to increase in stem cell niche within the tumor microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7720
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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