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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Presence of CD3+ and CD79a+ lymphocytes in the pituitary gland of dogs at post-mortem examination

Blomqvist, M.A.; Ley, Cecilia; Karlsson, H.K.; Hanson, Jeanette


Hypophysitis has been reported occasionally in dogs, with most cases resembling primary lymphocytic hypophysitis in man. Although it is generally assumed that lymphocytes are not present normally in the canine pituitary gland, few studies have investigated this hypothesis. However, lymphocytes are recognized in the pituitary gland of people and horses without signs of pituitary disease. It is unknown to what degree lymphocyte infiltration of the pituitary gland might occur as an incidental finding in dogs. The aim of the present study was to investigate the presence and distribution of lymphocytes in the pituitary gland of dogs without clinical suspicion of pituitary disease. Twenty dogs were subjected to routine necropsy examination. Formalin-fixed and paraffin wax-embedded sections of pituitary were stained with haematoxylin and eosin (HE) or subjected to immunohistochemistry (IHC) using primary antibodies specific for the T-cell marker CD3 and the B-cell marker CD79a. The number of CD3(+) and CD79a(+) cells per area unit (CPA) was determined for different pituitary regions. Two dogs had extensive neoplastic lesions in the pituitary gland and were excluded from analysis. In the remaining 18 dogs, occasional scattered CD3(+) cells were found in the pituitary gland. There was a significant difference in CD3(+) CPA between pituitary regions (P = 0.001). The highest CD3(+) CPA was found in the pars tuberalis (median 41.3 cells/mm(2), interquartile range 20.9-50.5 cells/mm(2)). In six of the 18 dogs (33%), CD79a(+) cells were detected in small number (median total cell number 0 cells/section, interquartile range 0-1.0 cells/section). This study shows that T cell, and fewer B cells, may be found in the pituitary gland of dogs without clinical suspicion of pituitary disease. Regional difference in T-cell density, with the highest CD3(+) CPA in the pars tuberalis, may imply regional immunoregulatory functions in the canine pituitary gland. (C) 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.


B cell; dog; hypophysitis; T cell

Published in

Journal of Comparative Pathology
2020, Volume: 176, pages: 116-121