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Anastasia P Athanasoulia-Kaspar, Kathrin H Popp and Gunter Karl Stalla

The dopaminergic treatment represents the primary treatment in prolactinomas, which are the most common pituitary adenomas and account for about 40% of all pituitary tumours with an annual incidence of six to ten cases per million population. The dopaminergic treatment includes ergot and non-ergot derivatives with high affinity for the dopamine receptors D1 or/and D2. Through the activation of the dopaminergic pathway on pituitary lactotrophs, the dopamine agonists inhibit the prolactin synthesis and secretion, therefore normalizing the prolactin levels and restoring eugonadism, but they also lead to tumour shrinkage. Treatment with dopamine agonists has been associated – apart from the common side effects such as gastrointestinal symptoms, dizziness and hypotension – with neuropsychiatric side effects such as impulse control disorders (e.g. pathological gambling, compulsive shopping, hypersexuality and binge eating) and also with behavioral changes from low mood, irritability and verbal aggressiveness up to psychotic and manic symptoms and paranoid delusions not only in patients with prolactinomas but also in patients with Parkinson’s disease and restless leg syndrome. They usually have de novo onset after initiation of the dopaminergic treatment and have been mainly reported in patients with Parkinson’s disease, who are being treated with higher doses of dopamine agonists. Moreover, dopamine and prolactin seem to play an essential role in the metabolic pathway. Patients with hyperprolactinemia tend to have increased body weight and an altered metabolic profile with hyperinsulinemia and increased prevalence of diabetes mellitus in comparison to healthy individuals and patients with non-functioning pituitary adenomas. Treatment with dopamine agonists in these patients in short-term studies seems to lead to weight loss and amelioration of the metabolic changes. Together these observations provide evidence that dopamine and prolactin have a crucial role both in the regard and metabolic system, findings that merit further investigation in long-term studies.

Open access

Anastasia P Athanasoulia-Kaspar, Matthias K Auer, Günter K Stalla and Mira Jakovcevski


Patients with non-functioning pituitary adenomas exhibit high morbidity and mortality rates. Growth hormone deficiency and high doses of glucocorticoid substitution therapy have been identified as corresponding risk factors. Interestingly, high levels of endogenous cortisol in, e.g., patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or patients with Cushing’s disease have been linked to shorter telomere length. Telomeres are noncoding DNA regions located at the end of chromosomes consisting of repetitive DNA sequences which shorten with aging and hereby determine cell survival. Therefore, telomere length can serve as a predictor for the onset of disease and mortality in some endocrine disorders (e.g., Cushing’s disease).


Here, we examine telomere length from blood in patients (n = 115) with non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPA) in a cross-sectional case–control (n = 106, age-, gender-matched) study using qPCR. Linear regression models were used to identify independent predictors of telomere length.


We show that patients with NFPA exhibited shorter telomeres than controls. No significant association of indices of growth hormone deficiency (IGF-1-level-SDS, years of unsubstituted growth hormone deficiency etc.) with telomere length was detected. Interestingly, linear regression analysis showed that hydrocortisone replacement dosage in patients with adrenal insufficiency (n = 52) was a significant predictor for shorter telomere length (β = 0.377; P = 0.018) independent of potential confounders (gender, age, BMI, arterial hypertension, systolic blood pressure, number of antihypertensive drugs, total leukocyte count, waist-to-hip ratio, waist circumference, diabetes mellitus type 2, HbA1c, current statin use). Median split analysis revealed that higher hydrocortisone intake (>20 mg) was associated with significantly shorter telomeres.


These observations strengthen the importance of adjusted glucocorticoid treatment in NFPA patients with respect to morbidity and mortality rates.