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Frontiers of Medicine doi: 10.1007/s11684-022-0973-7

Atypical pituitary hormone–target tissue axis

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A long-held belief is that pituitary hormones bind to their cognate receptors in classical target glands to actuate their manifold functions. However, a number of studies have shown that multiple types of pituitary hormone receptors are widely expressed in non-classical target organs. Each pituitary gland-derived hormone exhibits a wide range of nonconventional biological effects in these non-classical target organs. Herein, the extra biological functions of pituitary hormones, thyroid-stimulating hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, adrenocorticotrophic hormone, and prolactin when they act on non-classical organs were summarized, defined by the novel concept of an “atypical pituitary hormone–target tissue axis.” This novel proposal explains the pathomechanisms of abnormal glucose and lipid metabolism, obesity, hypertension, fatty liver, and atherosclerosis while offering a more comprehensive and systematic insights into the coordinated regulation of environmental factors, genetic factors, and neuroendocrine hormones on human biological functions. The continued exploration of the physiology of the “atypical pituitary hormone–target tissue axis” could enable the identification of novel therapeutic targets for metabolic diseases.

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