Context Involvement of the pituitary gland in SARS-CoV-2 infection has been clinically suggested by pituitary hormone deficiency in severe COVID-19 cases, by altered serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels in hospitalized patients, and by cases of pituitary apoplexy. However, the direct viral infection of the gland has not been investigated. Objective To evaluate whether the SARS-CoV-2 genome and antigens could be present in pituitary glands of lethal cases of COVID-19, and to assess possible changes in the expression of immune-related and pituitary-specific genes. Methods SARS-CoV-2 genome and antigens were searched in the pituitary gland of 23 patients who died from COVID-19 and, as controls, in 12 subjects who died from trauma or sudden cardiac death. Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and transmission electron microscopy were utilized. Levels of mRNA transcripts of immune-related and pituitary-specific genes were measured by the nCounter assay. Results The SARS-CoV-2 genome and antigens were detected in 14/23 (61%) pituitary glands of the COVID-19 group, not in controls. In SARS-CoV-2-positive pituitaries, the viral genome was consistently detected by PCR in the adeno- and the neurohypophysis. Immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, and transmission electron microscopy confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the pituitary. Activation of type I interferon signaling and enhanced levels of neutrophil and cytotoxic cell scores were found in virus-positive glands. mRNA transcripts of pituitary hormones and pituitary developmental/regulatory genes were suppressed in all COVID-19 cases irrespective of virus positivity. Conclusion Our study supports the tropism of SARS-CoV-2 for human pituitary and encourages exploration of pituitary dysfunction after COVID-19.

Suppression of Pituitary Hormone Genes in Subjects Who Died From COVID-19 Independently of Virus Detection in the Gland

Dolo, Vincenza;Basolo, Fulvio
2022

Abstract

Context Involvement of the pituitary gland in SARS-CoV-2 infection has been clinically suggested by pituitary hormone deficiency in severe COVID-19 cases, by altered serum adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels in hospitalized patients, and by cases of pituitary apoplexy. However, the direct viral infection of the gland has not been investigated. Objective To evaluate whether the SARS-CoV-2 genome and antigens could be present in pituitary glands of lethal cases of COVID-19, and to assess possible changes in the expression of immune-related and pituitary-specific genes. Methods SARS-CoV-2 genome and antigens were searched in the pituitary gland of 23 patients who died from COVID-19 and, as controls, in 12 subjects who died from trauma or sudden cardiac death. Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR), in situ hybridization, immunohistochemistry, and transmission electron microscopy were utilized. Levels of mRNA transcripts of immune-related and pituitary-specific genes were measured by the nCounter assay. Results The SARS-CoV-2 genome and antigens were detected in 14/23 (61%) pituitary glands of the COVID-19 group, not in controls. In SARS-CoV-2-positive pituitaries, the viral genome was consistently detected by PCR in the adeno- and the neurohypophysis. Immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization, and transmission electron microscopy confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in the pituitary. Activation of type I interferon signaling and enhanced levels of neutrophil and cytotoxic cell scores were found in virus-positive glands. mRNA transcripts of pituitary hormones and pituitary developmental/regulatory genes were suppressed in all COVID-19 cases irrespective of virus positivity. Conclusion Our study supports the tropism of SARS-CoV-2 for human pituitary and encourages exploration of pituitary dysfunction after COVID-19.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11697/192322
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