1999 Volume 62 Issue 3 Pages 205-218
The folliculo-stellate cells (FS cells) in the anterior pituitary gland are characterized by their star-like appearance and their ability to form follicles. Although FS cells do not produce any pituitary hormones, their special tendency to surrounding endocrine cells with their long cytoplasmic processes suggests that they regulate endocrine cells by intercellular communication. In spite of many morphological and cytophysiological studies recently performed, a precise understanding of the major functions of FS cells in the pituitary gland remains obscure. We review here the morphological characteristics of FS cells and their suspected functions in the anterior pituitary gland. It is well established that the FS cell produces many kinds of growth factors, i. e., fibroblast growth factor, vascular endothelial cell growth factor and interleukin 6. The biological significances of these growth factors in the anterior pituitary gland are also discussed in this paper. The origin and differentiation of FS cells, especially the possibility that the FS cell is a kind of stem cell which has the potential to differentiate into endocrine cells, is also presented.