Pituitary Anatomy and Development

  • Ronald M. LechanEmail author
  • Knarik Arkun
  • Roberto Toni
Part of the Contemporary Endocrinology book series (COE)


Although descriptions of the pituitary gland can be traced to the second century A.D., major advances continue to be made with respect to elucidating the organization and functional anatomy of this organ system. On the surface, the pituitary gland would appear to be a rather simple structure, containing two lobes (anterior and posterior) that are well visualized by MRI imaging, and gives rise to secreted hormones involved in the regulation of peripheral, target organs. However, the development, organization, and inner workings of the pituitary are vastly complicated. The anterior pituitary is comprised of three subdivisions including the pars distalis, pars intermedia, and pars tuberalis, all derived from Rathke’s pouch, but only the function of the pars distalis is well understood in man. Included among the complexity of pituitary anatomy is an expanding list of factors involved in the development of the anterior pituitary, a somewhat distinct topography for most the classic cell types in the pars distalis, morphological and physiological evidence for heterogeneity among these cells, evidence for cell clustering that may be involved in amplifying signals from the hypothalamus, local regulatory control mechanisms mediated by paracrine and autocrine secretion and modulation by glial-derived cell types, and the presence of stem cells that may be involved in postnatal plasticity of the anterior pituitary.


Anterior pituitary Cavernous sinus Corticotroph Folliculostellate cell Gonadotroph Lactotroph Pars distalis Pars intermedia Pars tuberalis Pituicyte Pituitary anatomy Pituitary development Pituitary stalk Posterior pituitary Rathke’s pouch Sellar region Somatotroph Thyrotroph 



We wish to thank Fulvio Barbaro, Elia Consolini, Marco Alfieri, and Davide Dallatana, Section of Human Anatomy and Museum BIOMED, University of Parma Parma, Italy, for invaluable help in preparing and photographing the anatomical material on the skull, cranial base, and microvascular anatomy of the human pituitary gland, and Dr. Arthur Tischler, Professor of Pathology, Tufts Medical Center, for his assistance with the histochemical preparations of the anterior pituitary.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ronald M. Lechan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Knarik Arkun
    • 2
  • Roberto Toni
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of Medicine, Division of EndocrinologyDiabetes and Metabolism, Tufts Medical Center and Tufts University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Anatomic and Clinical PathologyTufts Medical Center and Tufts University School of MedicineBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Medicine and Surgery, Unit of Biomedical, Biotechnological, and Translational Sciences, Section of Human AnatomyRE.MO.BIO.S. LabParmaItaly
  4. 4.Center for Sport and Exercise Medicine (SEM), University of Parma School of Medicine, c/o Maggiore HospitalParmaItaly
  5. 5.Museum of Biomedicine and Historical Laboratory (BIOMED), University of Parma Museum Network SystemParmaItaly
  6. 6.Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and MetabolismTufts Medical Center and Tufts University School of MedicineBostonUSA

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