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Open access

Ailsa Maria Main, Maria Rossing, Line Borgwardt, Birgitte Grønkær Toft, Åse Krogh Rasmussen, and Ulla Feldt-Rasmussen

Phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs) are tumours of the adrenal medulla and extra-adrenal sympathetic nervous system which often secrete catecholamines. Variants of the SDHX (SDHA, -AF2, -B, -C, -D) genes are a frequent cause of familial PPGLs. In this study from a single tertiary centre, we aimed to characterise the genotype–phenotype associations in patients diagnosed with germline variants in SDHX genes. We also assessed whether systematic screening of family members resulted in earlier detection of tumours. The study cohort comprised all individuals (n = 59) diagnosed with a rare variant in SDHX during a 13-year period. Patient- and pathology records were checked for clinical characteristics and histopathological findings. We found distinct differences in the clinical and histopathological characteristics between genetic variants in SDHB. We identified two SDHB variants with distinct phenotypical patterns. Family screening for SDHB variants resulted in earlier detection of tumours in two families. Patients with SDHA, SDHC and SDHD variants also had malignant phenotypes, underlining the necessity for a broad genetic screening of the proband. Our study corroborates previous findings of poor prognostic markers and found that the genetic variants and clinical phenotype are linked and, therefore, useful in the decision of clinical follow-up. Regular tumour screening of carriers of pathogenic variants may lead to an earlier diagnosis and expected better prognosis. The development of a combined algorithm with clinical, genetic, morphological, and biochemical factors may be the future for improved clinical risk stratification, forming a basis for larger multi-centre follow up studies.

Open access

Ivar Følling, Anna B Wennerstrøm, Tor J Eide, and Hilde Loge Nilsen

Introduction

Phaeochromocytomas are tumours originating in the medulla of the adrenal gland. They produce catecholamines, and some tumours also produce ectopic hormones. Two types of glucose imbalances occur in phaeochromocytoma patients, hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemic attacks. Therefore, we tested whether insulin transcript (INS), insulin, and a hybrid read-through transcript between exons from insulin and insulin-like growth factor 2 (INS-IGF2) were expressed in phaeochromocytomas.

Methods

We measured the expression of insulin using immunohistochemistry. The expression of INS-IGF2 was determined by qRT-PCR in formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded tissue from 20 phaeochromocytomas. The expression of INS and INS-IGF2 transcriptswas also analysed in 182 phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas using publicly available datasets in The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) Database.

Results

Of 20 phaeochromocytomas, 16 stained positive for insulin. The distribution of positive cells was mostly scattered, with some focal expression indicating clonal expansion. Nineteen tumours expressed high levels of INS and INS-IGF2 transcripts. The expression of the two transcripts corresponded closely. In the TCGA dataset, phaeochromocytoma expresses higher levels of INS and INS-IGF2 transcripts compared to the normal non-tumour adrenal glands. Thus, the expression of INS and INS-IGF2 seems to be a general phenomenon in phaeochromocytoma.

Conclusion

Most phaeochromocytomas contain cells that overexpress INS and INS-IGF2 transcripts. Most tumours also display heterogeneous expression of polypeptides immunoreactive to monoclonal anti-insulin antibodies. Clinically this may relate to both hyperglycaemia and hypoglycaemic attacks seen in patients with phaeochromocytoma as well as autocrine tumour growth.

Open access

Yiqiang Huang, Lin-ang Wang, Qiubo Xie, Jian Pang, Luofu Wang, Yuting Yi, Jun Zhang, Yao Zhang, Rongrong Chen, Weihua Lan, Dianzheng Zhang, and Jun Jiang

Pheochromocytoma and paragangliomas (PCC/PGL) are neuroendocrine tumors that arise from chromaffin cells of the adrenal medulla and sympathetic/parasympathetic ganglia, respectively. Of clinical relevance regarding diagnosis is the highly variable presentation of symptoms in PCC/PGL patients. To date, the clear-cut correlations between the genotypes and phenotypes of PCC/PGL have not been entirely established. In this study, we reviewed the medical records of PCC/PGL patients with pertinent clinical, laboratory and genetic information. Next-generation sequencing (NGS) performed on patient samples revealed specific germline mutations in the SDHB (succinate dehydrogenase complex iron-sulfur subunit B) and SDHD (succinate dehydrogenase complex subunit D) genes and these mutations were validated by Sanger sequencing. Of the 119 patients, two were identified with SDHB mutation and one with SDHD mutation. Immunohistochemical (IHC) staining was used to analyze the expression of these mutated genes. The germline mutations identified in the SDH genes were c343C>T and c.541-542A>G in the SDHB gene and c.334-337delACTG in the SDHD gene. IHC staining of tumors from the c.343C>T and c.541-2A>G carriers showed positive expression of SDHB. Tumors from the c.334-337delACTG carrier showed no expression of SDHD and a weak diffused staining pattern for SDHB. We strongly recommend genetic testing for suspected PCC/PGL patients with a positive family history, early onset of age, erratic hypertension, recurrence or multiple tumor sites and loss of SDHB and/or SDHD expression. Tailored personal management should be conducted once a patient is confirmed as an SDHB and/or SDHD mutation carrier or diagnosed with PCC/PGL.

Open access

Marieke Stientje Velema, Aline de Nooijer, Ad R M M Hermus, Henri J L M Timmers, Jacques W M Lenders, Olga Husson, and Jaap Deinum

Objective

To develop a primary aldosteronism (PA) disease-specific Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQoL) questionnaire.

Methods

We included newly diagnosed patients with PA (n = 26), and patients with PA after adrenalectomy (n = 25) or treated with mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists (n = 25). According to the guidelines for developing HRQoL questionnaires from the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC): Phase I: systematic literature review followed by focus group meetings with patients (n = 13) resulting in a list of 94 HRQoL issues. Relevance of issues was rated by 18 other patients and by health care professionals (n = 15), resulting in 30 remaining issues. Phase II: selected issues were converted into questions. Phase III: the provisional questionnaire was pre-tested by a third group of patients (n = 45) who also completed the EORTC core Quality of Life questionnaire (QLQ-C30). Psychometric testing resulted in a final selection of questions with their scale structure.

Results

After the collection and selection of HRQoL issues a provisional questionnaire consisting of 30 items was formed. Of these items, 26 could be assigned to one of the four scales ‘physical and mental fatigue’, ‘anxiety and stress’, ‘fluid balance’ and ‘other complaints’ cumulatively accounting for 68% of variation in all items. All scales had good reliability and validity. There was a significant correlation of all four scales with the QLQ-C30 in most cases.

Conclusions

We developed the first PA-specific HRQoL questionnaire (PA-QoL) using standard, methodologically proven guidelines. After completion of the final validation (phase IV, international field testing), the questionnaire can be implemented into clinical practice.

Open access

Ida Staby, Jesper Krogh, Marianne Klose, Jonas Baekdal, Ulla Feldt-Rasmussen, Lars Poulsgaard, Jacob Bertram Springborg, and Mikkel Andreassen

Introduction

Patients with pituitary adenomas undergoing transsphenoidal surgery require pre- and post-surgery examination of pituitary hormones. There is currently no consensus on how to evaluate the adrenal axis post-surgery. The aims of this study were to investigate factors that may predict postoperative adrenal insufficiency (AI) and to investigate the overall effect of transsphenoidal surgery on pituitary function.

Methods

One hundred and forty-three consecutive patients who had undergone transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary adenomas were included. Data on tumour size, pituitary function pre-surgery, plasma basal cortisol measured within 48 h post-surgery and pituitary function 6 months post-surgery were collected. Patients with AI prior to surgery, perioperative glucocorticoid treatment, Cushing’s disease and no re-evaluation after 1 month were excluded (n = 93) in the basal cortisol analysis.

Results

Low plasma basal cortisol post-surgery, tumour size and previous pituitary surgery were predictors of AI (all P < 0.05). A basal cortisol cut-off concentration of 300 nmol/L predicted AI 6 months post-surgery with sensitivity and negative predictive value of 100%, specificity of 81% and positive predictive value of 25%. New gonadal, thyroid and adrenal axis insufficiencies accounted for 2, 10 and 10%, respectively. The corresponding recovery rates were 17, 7 and 24%, respectively

Conclusion

Transsphenoidal surgery had an overall beneficial effect on pituitary endocrine function. Low basal plasma cortisol measured within 48 h after surgery, tumour size and previous surgery were identified as risk factors for AI. Measurement of basal cortisol post-surgery may help to identify patients at risk of developing AI.

Open access

Peter Ergang, Anna Mikulecká, Martin Vodicˇka, Karla Vagnerová, Ivan Mikšík, and Jirˇí Pácha

Stress is an important risk factors for human diseases. It activates the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and increases plasma glucocorticoids, which are powerful regulators of immune system. The response of the target cells to glucocorticoids depends not only on the plasma concentrations of cortisol and corticosterone but also on their local metabolism. This metabolism is catalyzed by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases type 1 and 2, which interconvert glucocorticoid hormones cortisol and corticosterone and their 11-oxo metabolites cortisone and 11-dehydrocorticosterone. The goal of this study was to determine whether stress modulates glucocorticoid metabolism within lymphoid organs – the structures where immune cells undergo development and activation. Using the resident-intruder paradigm, we studied the effect of social stress on glucocorticoid metabolism in primary and secondary lymphoid organs of Fisher 344 (F344) and Lewis (LEW) rats, which exhibit marked differences in their HPA axis response to social stressors and inflammation. We show that repeated social defeat increased the regeneration of corticosterone from 11-dehydrocorticosterone in the thymus, spleen and mesenteric lymphatic nodes (MLN). Compared with the F344 strain, LEW rats showed higher corticosterone regeneration in splenocytes of unstressed rats and in thymic and MLN mobile cells after stress but corticosterone regeneration in the stroma of all lymphoid organs was similar in both strains. Inactivation of corticosterone to 11-dehydrocorticosterone was found only in the stroma of lymphoid organs but not in mobile lymphoid cells and was not upregulated by stress. Together, our findings demonstrate the tissue- and strain-dependent regeneration of glucocorticoids following social stress.

Open access

Janko Sattler, Jinwen Tu, Shihani Stoner, Jingbao Li, Frank Buttgereit, Markus J Seibel, Hong Zhou, and Mark S Cooper

Patients with chronic immune-mediated arthritis exhibit abnormal hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity. The basis for this abnormality is not known. Immune-mediated arthritis is associated with increased extra-adrenal synthesis of active glucocorticoids by the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) enzyme. 11β-HSD1 is expressed in the central nervous system, including regions involved in HPA axis regulation. We examined whether altered 11β-HSD1 expression within these regions contributes to HPA axis dysregulation during arthritis. The expression of 11β-HSD1, and other components of glucocorticoid signaling, were examined in various brain regions and the pituitary gland of mice with experimentally induced arthritis. Two arthritis protocols were employed: The K/BxN spontaneous arthritis model for chronic arthritis and the K/BxN serum transfer arthritis model for acute arthritis. 11β-HSD1 mRNA (Hsd11b1) was expressed in the hippocampus, hypothalamus, cortex, cerebellum and pituitary gland. Hypothalamic Hsd11b1 expression did not change in response to arthritis in either model. Pituitary Hsd11b1 expression was however significantly increased in both chronic and acute arthritis models. Hippocampal Hsd11b1 was decreased in acute but not chronic arthritis. Chronic, but not acute, arthritis was associated with a reduction in hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone and arginine vasopressin expression. In both models, serum adrenocorticotropic hormone and corticosterone levels were no different from non-inflammatory controls. These findings demonstrate inflammation-dependent regulation of Hsd11b1 expression in the pituitary gland and hippocampus. The upregulation of 11β-HSD1 expression in the pituitary during both chronic and acute arthritis, and thus, an increase in glucocorticoid negative feedback, could contribute to the abnormalities in HPA axis activity seen in immune-mediated arthritis.

Open access

Muriel Houang, Thao Nguyen Khoa, Thibaut Eguether, Bettina Ribaut, Séverine Brabant, Michel Polak, Irène Netchine, and Antonin Lamaziere

Neonatal screening for congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) faces many specific challenges. It must be done using a performant analytical approach that combines sensitivity and specificity to capture the potential causes of mortality during the first week of life, such as salt-wasting and glucocorticoid deficiency. Here, we confirm that maternal inhaled corticosteroid intake during pregnancy is a possible cause of missed CAH diagnosis. Thanks to liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) analysis, we were able to quantify endogenous steroid metabolites and also detect the presence of exogenous steroids in the dried blood spot of a newborn. Adding LC-MS/MS analysis as second-tier test, especially one that includes both 17-hydroxyprogesterone and 21-deoxycortisol measurements, would probably improve CAH diagnosis. In familial neonatal screening one could also look for maternal corticosteroid therapies that are hidden to prevent false negative tests.

Open access

Masatada Watanabe, Shuji Ohno, and Hiroshi Wachi

Emerging evidence suggests that sex steroids are important for human skin health. In particular, estrogen improves skin thickness, elasticity and moisture of older women. The major source of circulating estrogen is the ovary; however, local estrogen synthesis and secretion have important roles in, for example, bone metabolism and breast cancer development. We hypothesized that infiltrated peripheral monocytes are one of the sources of estrogen in skin tissues. We also hypothesized that, during atopic dermatitis under stress, a decline in the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA) and facilitation of the (hypothalamus)–sympathetic–adrenomedullary system (SAM) attenuates estrogen secretion from monocytes. Based on this hypothesis, we tested aromatase expression in the human peripheral monocyte-derived cell line THP-1 in response to the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone (Dex), the synthetic β-agonist isoproterenol (Iso) and the β-antagonist propranolol (Pro). Dex mimics glucocorticoid secreted during excitation of the HPA, and Iso mimics catecholamine secreted during excitation of the SAM. We found that aromatase activity and the CYP19A1 gene transcript were both upregulated in THP-1 cells in the presence of Dex. Addition of Iso induced their downregulation and further addition of Pro rescued aromatase expression. These results may suggest that attenuation of estrogen secretion from peripheral monocytes could be a part of the pathology of stress-caused deterioration of atopic dermatitis. Further examination using an in vitro human skin model including THP-1 cells might be a valuable tool for investigating the therapeutic efficacy and mechanism of estrogen treatment for skin health.

Open access

Trevor Lewis, Eva Zeisig, and Jamie E Gaida

Background

While metabolic health is acknowledged to affect connective tissue structure and function, the mechanisms are unclear. Glucocorticoids are present in almost every cell type throughout the body and control key physiological processes such as energy homeostasis, stress response, inflammatory and immune processes, and cardiovascular function. Glucocorticoid excess manifests as visceral adiposity, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. As these metabolic states are also associated with tendinopathy and tendon rupture, it may be that glucocorticoids excess is the link between metabolic health and tendinopathy.

Objective

To synthesise current knowledge linking glucocorticoid exposure to tendon structure and function.

Methods

Narrative literature review.

Results

We provide an overview of endogenous glucocorticoid production, regulation, and signalling. Next we review the impact that oral glucocorticoid has on risk of tendon rupture and the effect that injected glucocorticoid has on resolution of symptoms. Then we highlight the clinical and mechanistic overlap between tendinopathy and glucocorticoid excess in the areas of visceral adiposity, dyslipidemia, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. In these areas, we highlight the role of glucocorticoids and how these hormones might underpin the connection between metabolic health and tendon dysfunction.

Conclusions

There are several plausible pathways through which glucocorticoids might mediate the connection between metabolic health and tendinopathy.