Inactivation and silencing of the tumor suppressor PTEN are found in many different epithelial tumors, including thyroid neoplasia. Cowden Disease patients, who harbor germ-line PTEN mutations, often display thyroid abnormalities, including multinodular goiter and follicular adenomas, and are at increased risk of thyroid cancer. To gain insights into the role PTEN plays in thyroid function and disease, we have generated a mouse strain, in which Cre-mediated recombination is used to specifically delete Pten in the thyrocytes. We found that Pten mutant mice develop diffuse goiter characterized by extremely enlarged follicles, in the presence of normal thyroid-stimulating hormone and T4 hormone levels. Loss of Pten resulted in a significant increase in the thyrocyte proliferative index, which was more prominent in the female mice, and in increased cell density in the female thyroid glands. Surprisingly, goitrogen treatment did not cause a substantial increase of the mutant thyroid size and increased only to some extent the proliferation index of the female thyrocytes, suggesting that a relevant part of the thyroid-stimulating hormone-induced proliferation signals are funneled through the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt cascade. Although complete loss of Pten was not sufficient to cause invasive tumors, over two thirds of the mutant females developed follicular adenomas by 10 months of age, showing that loss of Pten renders the thyroid highly susceptible to neoplastic transformation through mechanisms that include increased thyrocyte proliferation. Our findings show that constitutive activation of the PI3K/Akt cascade is sufficient to stimulate continuous autonomous growth and provide novel clues to the pathogenesis of Cowden Disease and sporadic nontoxic goiter.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research