Sex-determining region Y (SRY) box 2 (SOX2) haploinsufficiency causes a form of hypopituitarism in humans that is characterized by gonadotrophin deficiency known as hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism. Here, we conditionally deleted Sox2 in mice to investigate the pathogenesis of hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism. First, we found that absence of SOX2 in the developing Rathke pouch of conditional embryos led to severe anterior lobe hypoplasia with drastically reduced expression of the pituitary-specific transcription factor POU class 1 homeobox 1 (POU1F1) as well as severe disruption of somatotroph and thyrotroph differentiation. In contrast, corticotrophs, rostral-tip POU1F1-independent thyrotrophs, and, interestingly, lactotrophs and gonadotrophs were less affected. Second, we identified a requirement for SOX2 in normal proliferation of periluminal progenitors; in its absence, insufficient precursors were available to produce all cell lineages of the anterior pituitary. Differentiated cells derived from precursors exiting cell cycle at early stages, including corticotrophs, rostral-tip thyrotrophs, and gonadotrophs, were generated, while hormone-producing cells originating from late-born precursors, such as somatotrophs and POU1F1-dependent thyrotrophs, were severely reduced. Finally, we found that 2 previously characterized patients with SOX2 haploinsufficiency and associated hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism had a measurable response to gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulation, suggesting that it is not the absence of gonadotroph differentiation, but rather the deficient hypothalamic stimulation of gonadotrophs, that underlies typical hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism.
Sujatha A. Jayakody, Cynthia L. Andoniadou, Carles Gaston-Massuet, Massimo Signore, Anna Cariboni, Pierre M. Bouloux, Paul Le Tissier, Larysa H. Pevny, Mehul T. Dattani, Juan P. Martinez-Barbera