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Giovanni Tulipano

A variety of endocrine and metabolic signals regulate pituitary cell function acting through the hypothalamus-pituitary neuroendocrine axes or directly at the pituitary level. The underlying intracellular transduction mechanisms in pituitary cells are still debated. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) functions as a cellular sensor of low energy stores in all mammalian cells and promotes adaptive changes in response to calorie restriction. It is also regarded as a target for therapy of proliferative disorders. Various hormones and drugs can promote tissue-specific activation or inhibition of AMPK by enhancing or inhibiting AMPK phosphorylation, respectively. This review explores the preclinical studies published in the last decade that investigate the role of AMP-activated protein kinase in the intracellular transduction pathways downstream of endocrine and metabolic signals or drugs affecting pituitary cell function, and its role as a target for drug therapy of pituitary proliferative disorders. The effects of the hypoglycemic agent metformin, which is an indirect AMPK activator, are discussed. The multiple effects of metformin on cell metabolism and cell signalling and ultimately on cell function may be either dependent or independent of AMPK. The in vitro effects of metformin may also help highlighting differences in metabolic requirements between pituitary adenomatous cells and normal cells.