Acta Neuropathologica

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 43–53 | Cite as

Oncocytes in the anterior lobe of the human pituitary gland

A light and electron microscopic study
  • K. Kovacs
  • E. Horvath
  • J. M. Bilbao
Original Investigations


A light and electron microscopic study was undertaken on 3 surgically removed non-tumorous adenohypophyses and 16 pituitary adenomas. Numerous oncocytes have been found in 2 non-tumorous adenohypophyses and in 6 pituitary adenomas including 1 chromophobe adenoma which was composed almost exclusively of oncocytes. Thus, it seems that the occurrence of oncocytes in the anterior pituitary cannot be considered a rare finding. The distinctive feature of oncocytes is the abundance of mitochondria in their cytoplasm. This alteration can be so extensive that the entire cytoplasm is filled with mitochondria leaving only a small area for the remaining cytoplasmic organelles.

Oncocytes arise from adenohypophysial cells. This transformation is gradual and is not restricted to one particular cell type. In the early phases of development of oncocytes the secretory granules are well preserved. Thus, hormone secretion is presumably maintained. It seems conceivable, however, that in the more advanced phases of evolution of oncocytes, when the secretory granules decrease in number, hormone production is diminished or stopped. Further investigations are, however, required to elucidate in detail the functional activity of oncocytes.

It remains to be established whether mitochondrial accumulation is principally due to increased formation or delayed breakdown. As some mitochondria show signs indicating division it appears that multiplication of mitochondria is the underlying mechanism resulting in their significant increase. However, the possibility cannot be excluded that the life span of mitochondria is prolonged and mitochondrial longevity plays an important role in causing transformation of adenohypophysiocytes into oncocytes.

Key words

Oncocytes Adenohypophysis Pituitary Adenoma Secretory Granules Electron Microscopy 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Kovacs
    • 1
  • E. Horvath
    • 1
  • J. M. Bilbao
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pathology, St. Michael's HospitalUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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