Mouse pituitary-derived organoid model to study pituitary stem cell biology

Scope of the method

The Method relates to
  • Animal health
  • Human health
The Method is situated in
  • Basic Research
  • Translational - Applied Research
Type of method
  • In vitro - Ex vivo
This method makes use of
  • Animal derived cells / tissues / organs
Species from which cells/tissues/organs are derived
Type of cells/tissues/organs


Method keywords
  • Organoid model
  • Pituitary stem cells
  • SOX2
  • WNT pathway
Scientific area keywords
  • Pituitary homeostasis
  • Pituitary plasticity
  • Pituitary disease
  • Endocrine cells
  • Hormonal cell differentiation
  • Pituitary stem cell biology
Method description

We have established organoids from mouse pituitary with the aim to generate a novel research model to study pituitary stem cell biology in both healthy and diseased glands. The organoids originated from the pituitary cells expressing the stem cell marker SOX2, were long-term expandable, displayed a stemness phenotype during expansive culture and showed specific hormonal differentiation ability, although still limited, after subrenal transplantation. Application of the protocol to transgenically injured pituitary harboring an activated stem cell population, resulted in more numerous organoids, thus reproducing the activated stem cell state. Organoid characterization further exposed facets of regulatory pathways of the stem cells of the pituitary and advanced new injury-activated markers.

Lab equipment
  • - Cell incubator ;
  • - Biosafety cabinet ;
  • - Cell culture ;
  • - Epifluorescence ;
  • - Confocal microscopes.
Method status
  • Published in peer reviewed journal

Pros, cons & Future potential


Pituitary-derived organoids provide faithful and expandable in vitro models to scrutinize pituitary stem cell biology and activation in health and disease (such as hypopituitarism and tumorigenesis).


Differentiation capacity of the pituitary stem cells in the organoid model still remain limited (but may represent natural behaviour).


Typical organoids reproduce the epithelial compartment of a tissue. Developing more complex organoid systems containing other cell tissue types will further advance the model.

Future & Other applications

Further optimization of the expandability and differentiation efficiency of the organoids will allow to search for cellular and molecular pathways underlying pituitary regeneration to eventually identify potential regenerative paths and to in vitro model pituitary tissue as well as pituitary disease.

References, associated documents and other information


Cox B., Laporte E., Vennekens A., Kobayashi H., Nys C., Van Zundert I., Uji-i H., Vercauteren Drubbel A., Beck B., Roose H., Boretto M., and Vankelecom H. Organoids from pituitary as a novel research model toward pituitary stem cell exploration. Journal of Endocrinology. Volume 240: Issue 2 P 287–308 (2019)

Boretto M, Cox B, Noben M, Hendriks N, Fassbender A, Roose H, Amant F, Timmerman D, Tomassetti C, Vanhie A, et al. 2017 Development of organoids from mouse and human endometrium showing endometrial epithelium physiology and long-term expandability. Development 1441775–1786. (

prof. dr. Hugo Vankelecom, Department of Development and Regeneration, Cluster …

Contact person

Hugo Vankelecom


Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL)
Development and Regeneration
Flemish Region