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Open access

I Savchuk, M L Morvan, J P Antignac, K Gemzell-Danielsson, B Le Bizec, O Söder, and K Svechnikov

The onset of steroidogenesis in human fetal adrenal glands (HFA) during the first trimester is poorly investigated. An unresolved question is the capacity of the HFA to produce potent androgen DHT via conventional and/or the backdoor pathway(s) at the end of first trimester, when androgen-responsive organs are developed. Our aim was to explore steroidogenesis and the expression of steroidogenic enzymes and transcription factors in HFA at gestational weeks (GW) 9–12 with focus on their androgenic potential. Steroids in the HFA were analyzed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. The expression of steroidogenic enzymes and transcription factors in the HFA at GW9–12 was investigated by qPCR, automated Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. We demonstrated that during GW9–12 HFA produced steroids of the ∆5, ∆4 and the backdoor pathways of the biosynthesis of DHT, though the latter was limited to production of 17α-OH-dihydroprogesterone, androsterone and androstanedione without further conversion to DHT. The only androgens identified in the HFA were testosterone and androsterone, a precursor in the biosynthesis of DHT. We also observed higher levels of CYP17A1 but low expression of 3βHSD2 at GW11–12 in the HFA. Elevated levels of CYP17A1 were associated with an increased expression of SF-1 and GATA-6. Altogether, our data demonstrate that of those steroids analyzed, the only potent androgen directly produced by the HFA at GW9–12 was testosterone. The onset of steroidogenesis in the HFA is a complex process that is regulated by the coordinated action of related transcription factors.

Open access

Emma Jernberg, Anders Bergh, and Pernilla Wikström

Prostate cancer (PC) remains a leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men worldwide, despite continuously improved treatment strategies. Patients with metastatic disease are treated by androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) that with time results in the development of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) usually established as metastases within bone tissue. The androgen receptor (AR) transcription factor is the main driver of CRPC development and of acquired resistance to drugs given for treatment of CRPC, while a minority of patients have CRPC that is non-AR driven. Molecular mechanisms behind epithelial AR reactivation in CRPC include AR gene amplification and overexpression, AR mutations, expression of constitutively active AR variants, intra-tumoural and adrenal androgen synthesis and promiscuous AR activation by other factors. This review will summarize AR alterations of clinical relevance for patients with CRPC, with focus on constitutively active AR variants, their possible association with AR amplification and structural rearrangements as well as their ability to predict patient resistance to AR targeting drugs. The review will also discuss AR signalling in the tumour microenvironment and its possible relevance for metastatic growth and therapy.

Open access

Stavroula A Paschou, Eleni Palioura, Dimitrios Ioannidis, Panagiotis Anagnostis, Argyro Panagiotakou, Vasiliki Loi, Georgios Karageorgos, Dimitrios G Goulis, and Andromachi Vryonidou

Objective

The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of adrenal hyperandrogenism on insulin resistance and lipid profile in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Patients and methods

We studied 372 women with PCOS according to the NIH criteria. 232 age- and BMI-matched women served as controls in order to define adrenal hyperandrogenism (DHEA-S >95th percentile). Then, patients with PCOS were classified into two groups: with adrenal hyperandrogenism (PCOS-AH, n = 108) and without adrenal hyperandrogenism (PCOS-NAH, n = 264). Anthropometric measurements were recorded. Fasting plasma glucose, insulin, lipid profile, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) and androgen (TT, Δ4A, DHEA-S) concentrations were assessed. Free androgen index (FAI) and homeostatic model assessment-insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) index were calculated.

Results

Women with PCOS-AH were younger than PCOS-NAH (P < 0.001), but did not differ in the degree and type of obesity. No differences were found in HOMA-IR, total cholesterol, HDL-c, LDL-c and triglyceride concentrations (in all comparisons, P > 0.05). These metabolic parameters did not differ between the two groups even after correction for age. Women with PCOS-AH had lower SHBG (29.2 ± 13.8 vs 32.4 ± 11.8 nmol/L, P = 0.025) and higher TT (1.0 ± 0.2 vs 0.8 ± 0.4 ng/mL, P = 0.05) and Δ4A (3.9 ± 1.2 vs 3.4 ± 1.0 ng/mL, P = 0.007) concentrations, as well as FAI (14.1 ± 8.0 vs 10.2 ± 5.0, P < 0.001). These results were confirmed by a multiple regression analysis model in which adrenal hyperandrogenism was negatively associated with age (P < 0.001) and SHBG concentrations (P = 0.02), but not with any metabolic parameter.

Conclusions

Women with PCOS and adrenal hyperandrogenism do not exhibit any deterioration in insulin resistance and lipid profile despite the higher degree of total androgens.

Open access

Takuhiro Sonoyama, Masakatsu Sone, Naohisa Tamura, Kyoko Honda, Daisuke Taura, Katsutoshi Kojima, Yorihide Fukuda, Naotetsu Kanamoto, Masako Miura, Akihiro Yasoda, Hiroshi Arai, Hiroshi Itoh, and Kazuwa Nakao

We recently reported that stimulation with high-dose ACTH caused different responses in terms of aldosterone secretion in aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs) and idiopathic hyperaldosteronism (IHA) in patients with primary aldosteronism (PA). However, the role of endogenous ACTH in aldosterone secretion in PA has not been systematically evaluated. In this study, we examined diurnal changes in plasma aldosterone concentration (PAC), and changes in PAC after dexamethasone administration in patients with suspected PA, in order to evaluate the effect of endogenous ACTH on aldosterone secretion. Seventy-three patients admitted to Kyoto University Hospital with suspected PA were included. The patients were classified into non-PA, IHA, and APA groups according to the results of captopril challenge test and adrenal venous sampling. PAC at 0900 h (PAC0900), 2300 h (PAC2300), and after 1-mg dexamethasone suppression test (PACdex) was measured and compared among the three groups. The PAC2300/PAC0900 and PACdex/PAC0900 ratios were also analyzed. PAC2300 and PACdex were lower than PAC0900 in all three groups. There were no significant differences in PAC2300/PAC0900 among the three groups. However, PACdex/PAC0900 was significantly lower in the APA group compared with the non-PA and IHA groups. The results of this study indicate that aldosterone secretion in APA patients is more strongly dependent on endogenous ACTH than in IHA and non-PA patients. The results also suggest that factors other than ACTH, such as clock genes, may cause diurnal changes in aldosterone secretion in IHA and non-PA patients.

Open access

Michael J Gratz, Stavroula Stavrou, Christina Kuhn, Simone Hofmann, Kerstin Hermelink, Helene Heidegger, Stefan Hutter, Doris Mayr, Sven Mahner, Udo Jeschke, and Aurelia Vattai

Objectives

l-dopa decarboxylase (DDC) is responsible for the synthesis of dopamine. Dopamine, which binds to the D2-dopamine receptor (D2R), plays an important role in the maintenance of pregnancy. Aim of our study was the analysis of DDC and D2R expression in placentas of spontaneous miscarriages (SMs) and recurrent miscarriages (RMs) in comparison to healthy controls.

Methods

Patients with SM (n = 15) and RM (n = 15) were compared with patients from healthy pregnancies (n = 15) (pregnancy weeks 7–13 each). Placental tissue has been collected from SMs and RMs from the first trimester (Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics, LMU Munich) and from abruptions (private practice, Munich). Placental cell lines, BeWo- and JEG-3 cells, were stimulated with the trace amines T0AM and T1AM in vitro.

Results

Levels of DDC and D2R in trophoblasts and the decidua were lower in RMs in comparison to healthy controls. Stimulation of BeWo cells with T1AM significantly reduced DDC mRNA and protein levels. Via double-immunofluorescence, a DDC-positive cell type beneath decidual stromal cells and foetal EVT in the decidua could be detected.

Conclusions

Downregulation of DDC and D2R in trophoblasts of RMs reflects a reduced signal cascade of catecholamines on the foetal side.

Open access

Maria Angela D'amico, Barbara Ghinassi, Pascal Izzicupo, Lamberto Manzoli, and A Di Baldassarre

Chromogranin A (CgA (CHGA)) is the major soluble protein co-stored and co-released with catecholamines and can function as a pro-hormone by giving rise to several bioactive peptides. This review summarizes the physiological functions, the pathogenic implications, and the recent use of these molecules as biomarkers in several pathological conditions. A thorough literature review of the electronic healthcare databases MEDLINE, from January 1985 to September 2013, was conducted to identify articles and studies concerned with CgA and its processing. The search strategies utilized keywords such as chromogranin A, vasostatins 1 and 2, chromofungin, chromacin, pancreastatin, catestatin, WE14, chromostatin, GE25, parastatin, and serpinin and was supplemented by the screening of references from included papers and review articles. A total of 209 English-language, peer-reviewed original articles or reviews were examined. The analysis of the retrospective literature suggested that CgA and its several bioactive fragments exert a broad spectrum of regulatory activities by influencing the endocrine, the cardiovascular, and the immune systems and by affecting the glucose or calcium homeostasis. As some peptides exert similar effects, but others elicit opposite responses, the regulation of the CgA processing is critical to maintain homeostasis, whereas an unbalanced production of peptides that exert opposing effects can have a pathogenic role in several diseases. These clinical implications entail that CgA and its derived peptides are now used as diagnostic and prognostic markers or to monitor the response to pharmacological intervention not only in endocrine tumors, but also in cardiovascular, inflammatory, and neuropsychiatric diseases.

Open access

Satoshi Higuchi, Hideki Ota, Yuta Tezuka, Kazumasa Seiji, Hidenobu Takagi, Jongmin Lee, Yi-Wei Lee, Kei Omata, Yoshikiyo Ono, Ryo Morimoto, Masataka Kudo, Fumitoshi Satoh, and Kei Takase

Objectives

This study compared cardiac function, morphology, and tissue characteristics between two common subtypes of primary aldosteronism (PA) using a 3T MR scanner.

Design

A retrospective, single-center, observational study.

Methods

We retrospectively reviewed 143 consecutive patients with PA, who underwent both adrenal venous sampling and cardiac magnetic resonance. We acquired cine, late gadolinium enhancement, and pre- and postcontrast myocardial T1-mapping images.

Results

PA was diagnosed as unilateral aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA) in 70 patients and bilateral hyperaldosteronism (BHA) in 73. The APA group showed significantly higher plasma aldosterone concentration (PAC) and aldosterone to renin rate (ARR) than the BHA group. After controlling for age, sex, antihypertensive drugs, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and disease duration, the parameters independently associated with APA were: left ventricular end-diastolic volume index (EDVI: adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.06 (95% CI: 1.030–1.096), P < 0.01), end-systolic volume index (ESVI: 1.06 (1.017–1.113), P < 0.01), stroke index (SI: 1.07 (1.020–1.121), P < 0.01), cardiac index (CI: 1.001 (1.000–1.001), P < 0.01), and native T1 (1.01 (1.000–1.019), P = 0.038). Weak positive correlations were found between PAC and EDVI (R = 0.28, P < 0.01), ESVI (0.26, P < 0.01), and SI (0.18, P = 0.03); and between ARR and EDVI (0.25, P < 0.01), ESVI (0.24, P < 0.01), and native T1 (0.17, P = 0.047).

Conclusions

APA is associated with greater LV volumetric parameters and higher native T1 values, suggesting a higher risk of volume overload and myocardial damage.

Open access

Nancy J Olsen, Ann L Benko, and William J Kovacs

Clinical and experimental evidence support a role for gonadal steroids in modulating the expression and course of autoimmune diseases such as lupus. Whether or not inherited variation in sensitivity to circulating androgenic hormones could influence the manifestations of such disease is, however, unknown. We sought to determine whether differences in androgen sensitivity conferred by variation in the exon 1 CAG repeat region of the androgen receptor (AR) gene were associated with differences in the clinical or humoral immune manifestations of lupus in a cohort of female subjects. We found that shorter AR CAG repeat lengths in lupus subjects correlated with a higher Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index score, higher ANA levels, and expression of a broader array of IgG autoantibodies. Our findings of more severe clinical manifestations and more exuberant humoral autoimmunity in women with a shorter AR exon 1 CAG repeat length suggest a role for genetically determined sensitivity to androgens as a modulator of autoimmune processes.

Open access

Jana Ernst, Katharina Gert, Frank Bernhard Kraus, Ulrike Elisabeth Rolle-Kampczyk, Martin Wabitsch, Faramarz Dehghani, and Kristina Schaedlich

The rapid increase of obesity during the last decades and its future prospects are alarming. Besides the general discussed causes of obesity, the ‘Developmental Origins of Health and Disease’ (DOHaD) hypothesis received more attention in recent years. This hypothesis postulates an adverse influence during early development that programs the unborn child for metabolic dysfunctions later in life. Childhood obesity – an as much increasing problem – can be predisposed by maternal overweight and diabetes. Both, obesity and hyperinsulinemia are major causes of female hyperandrogenemia. As predicted by the DOHaD hypothesis and shown in animal models, developmental androgen excess can lead to metabolic abnormalities in offspring. In this study, we investigated, if androgen exposure adversely affects the adipogenic differentiation of preadipocytes and the endocrine function of adult adipocytes. The human SGBS preadipocyte model was used to affirm the de novo biosynthesis of steroid hormones under normal adipogenesis conditions. Normal adipogenesis was paralleled by an increase of corticosteroids and androgens, whereas estrogen remained at a steady level. Treatment with androstenedione had no effect on SGBS proliferation and differentiation, but adult adipocytes exhibited a significant higher accumulation of triglycerides. Progesterone (up to 2-fold), testosterone (up to 38-fold) and cortisone (up to 1.4-fold) – but not cortisol – were elevated by androstenedione administration in adult adipocytes. Estrogen was not altered. Data suggest that androgen does not negatively influence adipogenic differentiation, but steroidogenic function of SGBS adipocytes.

Open access

Bo Zhu, Yumei Chen, Fang Xu, Xiaolu Shen, Xuanyu Chen, Jieqiang Lv, and Songying Zhang

Background

Androgens excess results in endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, which is an important cause of β cells dysfunction. Here, we investigated the molecular regulation of androgens excess, ER stress, and β-cell function in polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Methods

PCOS mouse model was established by injection of DHEA. Primary cultured mouse islets were used to detect testosterone (TE)-induced ER stress. The response of ER stress, apoptosis, and hyperinsulinemia were analyzed in INS-1 cells with or without TE exposure. Androgen receptor (AR) antagonist and ER stress inhibitor treatment was performed to evaluate the role of TE in ER stress and proinsulin secretion of PCOS mice.

Results

PCOS mice had higher ER stress in islets. TE exposure induced ER stress and apoptosis significantly through sustaining insulin overexpression in β cells, which in turn impaired proinsulin maturation and secretion. Blocking this process could significantly relieve ER stress and apoptosis and improve insulin homeostasis.

Conclusion

ER stress activated by androgens excess in PCOS contributes to β cell dysfunction and hyperinsulinemia.