The melanocortin-2-receptor (MC2R), also known as the ACTH receptor, is a critical component of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. The importance of MC2R in adrenal physiology is exemplified by the condition familial glucocorticoid deficiency (FGD), a potentially fatal disease characterised by isolated cortisol deficiency. MC2R mutations cause ~25% of cases. The discovery of a MC2R accessory protein MRAP, mutations of which account for ~20% of FGD, has provided insight into MC2R trafficking and signalling. MRAP is a single transmembrane domain accessory protein highly expressed in the adrenal gland and essential for MC2R expression and function. Mouse models helped elucidate the action of ACTH. The Mc2r-knockout (Mc2r − / −) mice was the first mouse model developed to have adrenal insufficiency with deficiencies in glucocorticoid, mineralocorticoid and catecholamines. We recently reported the generation of the Mrap − / − mice which better mimics the human FGD phenotype with isolated glucocorticoid deficiency alone. The adrenal glands of adult Mrap − / − mice were grossly dysmorphic with a thickened capsule, deranged zonation and deranged WNT4/beta-catenin and sonic hedgehog (SHH) pathway signalling. Collectively, these mouse models of FGD highlight the importance of ACTH and MRAP in adrenal progenitor cell regulation, cortex maintenance and zonation.
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Tatiana V Novoselova, Peter J King, Leonardo Guasti, Louise A Metherell, Adrian J L Clark, and Li F Chan
Henrik Falhammar, Magnus Kjellman, and Jan Calissendorff
With the increasing access to imaging more pheochromocytomas are diagnosed in the workup of adrenal incidentalomas. This may have changed the occurrence of the classic presentation with hypertension and the classic triad (headaches, sweating and palpitation).
We reviewed 94 consecutive cases of pheochromocytomas. Two cases of ectopic ACTH-syndrome were subsequently excluded.
Of the 92 cases included 64% had presented as an incidentaloma, 32% as a suspected pheochromocytoma and 4% had been screened because of previously diagnosed MEN2A. Those screened were youngest while those with incidentalomas were oldest. The females were more common in the incidentaloma and the screening groups, and males in the suspected pheochromocytoma group. Measurements of noradrenaline/normetanephrine levels were highest in the suspected pheocromocytoma group and lowest in the screening group. Hypertension was present in 63% of the incidentalomas, 79% of suspected pheochromocytomas and in none of the screening group. Paroxysmal symptoms were present in almost all with suspected pheochromocytoma while only in half of the other groups. The suspected pheocromocytoma group had most symptoms and the screening group least. The classic triad was present in 14% of the incidentalomas, in 28% of the suspected and in none of the screening group, while no symptoms at all was present in 12%, 0% and 25%, respectively. Pheochromocytoma crisis occurred in 5%. There was a positive correlation between tumor size vs hormone levels, and catecholamine levels vs blood pressure.
Clinicians need to be aware of the modern presentation of pheochromocytomas since early identification can be life-saving.
Thomas Reinehr, Alexandra Kulle, Juliane Rothermel, Caroline Knop-Schmenn, Nina Lass, Christina Bosse, and Paul-Martin Holterhus
The underlying mechanisms of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are not fully understood yet. The aim of the study was to get functional insights into the regulation of steroid hormones in PCOS by steroid metabolomics.
This is a longitudinal study of changes of steroid hormones in 40 obese girls aged 13–16 years (50% with PCOS) participating in a 1-year lifestyle intervention. Girls with and without PCOS were matched to age, BMI and change of weight status.
We measured progesterone, 17-hydroxyprogesterone, 17-hydroxyprogenolon, 11-deoxycorticosterone, 21-deoxycorticosterone, deoxycorticosterone, corticosterone, 11-deoxycortisol, cortisol, cortisone, androstenedione, testosterone, dehydroepiandrostendione-sulfate (DHEA-S), estrone and estradiol by LC–MS/MS steroid profiling at baseline and one year later.
At baseline, obese PCOS girls demonstrated significantly higher androstenedione and testosterone concentrations compared to obese girls without PCOS, whereas the other steroid hormones including glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, estrogens and precursors of androgens did not differ significantly. Weight loss in obese PCOS girls was associated with a significant decrease of testosterone, androstenedione, DHEA-S, cortisol and corticosterone concentrations. Weight loss in obese non-PCOS girls was associated with a significant decrease of DHEA-S, cortisol and corticosterone concentrations, whereas no significant changes of testosterone and androstenedione concentrations could be observed. Without weight loss, no significant changes of steroid hormones were measured except an increase of estradiol in obese PCOS girls without weight loss.
The key steroid hormones in obese adolescents with PCOS are androstenedione and testosterone, whereas glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, estrogens and precursors of androgens did not differ between obese girls with and without PCOS.
Aneta Gawlik, Michael Shmoish, Michaela F Hartmann, Stefan A Wudy, Zbigniew Olczak, Katarzyna Gruszczynska, and Ze’ev Hochberg
Analysis of steroids by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) defines a subject’s steroidal fingerprint. Here, we compare the steroidal fingerprints of obese children with or without liver disease to identify the ‘steroid metabolomic signature’ of childhood nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
Urinary samples of 85 children aged 8.5–18.0 years with BMI >97% were quantified for 31 steroid metabolites by GC-MS. The fingerprints of 21 children with liver disease (L1) as assessed by sonographic steatosis (L1L), elevated alanine aminotransferases (L1A) or both (L1AL), were compared to 64 children without markers of liver disease (L0). The steroidal signature of the liver disease was generated as the difference in profiles of L1 against L0 groups.
L1 comparing to L0 presented higher fasting triglycerides (P = 0.004), insulin (P = 0.002), INS/GLU (P = 0.003), HOMA-IR (P = 0.002), GGTP (P = 0.006), AST/SGOT (P = 0.002), postprandial glucose (P = 0.001) and insulin (P = 0.011). L1AL showed highest level of T-cholesterol and triglycerides (P = 0.029; P = 0.044). Fasting insulin, postprandial glucose, INS/GLU and HOMA-IR were highest in L1L and L1AL (P = 0.001; P = 0.017; P = 0.001; P = 0.001). The liver disease steroidal signature was marked by lower DHEA and its metabolites, higher glucocorticoids (mostly tetrahydrocortisone) and lower mineralocorticoid metabolites than L0. L1 patients showed higher 5α-reductase and 21-hydroxylase activity (the highest in L1A and L1AL) and lower activity of 11βHSD1 than L0 (P = 0.041, P = 0.009, P = 0.019).
The ‘steroid metabolomic signature’ of liver disease in childhood obesity provides a new approach to the diagnosis and further understanding of its metabolic consequences. It reflects the derangements of steroid metabolism in NAFLD that includes enhanced glucocorticoids and deranged androgens and mineralocorticoids.
Heike Hoyer-Kuhn, Angela Huebner, Anette Richter-Unruh, Markus Bettendorf, Tilman Rohrer, Klaus Kapelari, Stefan Riedl, Klaus Mohnike, Helmuth-Günther Dörr, Friedrich-Wilhelm Roehl, Katharina Fink, Reinhard W Holl, and Joachim Woelfle
Treatment of classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is necessary to compensate for glucocorticoid/mineralocorticoid deficiencies and to suppress androgen excess. Hydrocortisone (HC) is preferred in growing children with classic CAH but recommendations regarding dosage/administration are inconsistent. The aim of this study was to evaluate HC dosing in children with CAH in relation to chronological age, sex, and phenotype based on a multicenter CAH registry.
The CAH registry was initiated in 1997 by the AQUAPE in Germany. On December 31st 2018, data from 1571 patients were included.
A custom-made electronic health record software is used at the participating centers. Pseudonymized data are transferred for central analysis. Parameters were selected based on current guidelines. Descriptive analyses and linear regression models were implemented with SAS 9.4.
We identified 1288 patients on exclusive treatment with hydrocortisone three times daily (604 boys; median age 7.2 years; 817 salt-wasting phenotype, 471 simple-virilizing phenotype). The mean (lower-upper quartiles) daily HC dose (mg/m² body surface area) was 19.4 (18.9–19.8) for patients <3 months (n = 329), 15.0 (14.6–15.3) for age ≥3–12 months (n = 463), 14.0 (13.7–14.3) for age 1–5.9 years (n = 745), 14.2 (14.0–14.5) for age 6 years to puberty entry (n = 669), and 14.9 (14.6–15.2) during puberty to 18 years (n = 801). Fludrocortisone was administered in 74.1% of patients with a median daily dosage of 88.8 µg.
Our analyses showed that still a high proportion of children are treated with HC doses higher than recommended. This evaluation provides comprehensive information on nationwide hydrocortisone substitution dosages in children with CAH underlining the benefit of systematic data within a registry to assess daily practice.
Hiren Patt, Katrin Koehler, Sailesh Lodha, Swati Jadhav, Chaitanya Yerawar, Angela Huebner, Kunal Thakkar, Sneha Arya, Sandhya Nair, Manjunath Goroshi, Hosahithlu Ganesh, Vijaya Sarathi, Anurag Lila, Tushar Bandgar, and Nalini Shah
To study genotype–phenotype spectrum of triple A syndrome (TAS).
Retrospective chart analysis of Indian TAS patients (cohort 1, n = 8) and review of genotyped TAS cases reported in world literature (cohort 2, n = 133, 68 publications).
Median age at presentation was 4.75 years (range: 4–10) and 5 years (range: 1–42) for cohorts 1 and 2, respectively. Alacrima, adrenal insufficiency (AI), achalasia and neurological dysfunction (ND) were seen in 8/8, 8/8, 7/8 and 4/8 patients in cohort 1, and in 99, 91, 93 and 79% patients in cohort 2, respectively. In both cohorts, alacrima was present since birth while AI and achalasia manifested before ND. Mineralocorticoid deficiency (MC) was uncommon (absent in cohort 1, 12.5% in cohort 2). In cohort 1, splice-site mutation in exon 1 (p.G14Vfs*45) was commonest, followed by a deletion in exon 8 (p.S255Vfs*36). Out of 65 mutations in cohort 2, 14 were recurrent and five exhibited regional clustering. AI was more prevalent, more often a presenting feature, and was diagnosed at younger age in T group (those with truncating mutations) as compared to NT (non-truncating mutations) group. ND was more prevalent, more common a presenting feature, with later age at onset in NT as compared to T group.
Clinical profile of our patients is similar to that of patients worldwide. Alacrima is the earliest and most consistent finding. MC deficiency is uncommon. Some recurrent mutations show regional clustering. p.G14Vfs*45 and p.S255Vfs*36 account for majority of AAAS mutations in our cohort. Phenotype of T group differs from that of NT group and merits future research.
Ida Staby, Jesper Krogh, Marianne Klose, Jonas Baekdal, Ulla Feldt-Rasmussen, Lars Poulsgaard, Jacob Bertram Springborg, and Mikkel Andreassen
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.
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.
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
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.
Anastasia P Athanasoulia-Kaspar, Matthias K Auer, Günter K Stalla, and Mira Jakovcevski
Patients with non-functioning pituitary adenomas exhibit high morbidity and mortality rates. Growth hormone deficiency and high doses of glucocorticoid substitution therapy have been identified as corresponding risk factors. Interestingly, high levels of endogenous cortisol in, e.g., patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or patients with Cushing’s disease have been linked to shorter telomere length. Telomeres are noncoding DNA regions located at the end of chromosomes consisting of repetitive DNA sequences which shorten with aging and hereby determine cell survival. Therefore, telomere length can serve as a predictor for the onset of disease and mortality in some endocrine disorders (e.g., Cushing’s disease).
Here, we examine telomere length from blood in patients (n = 115) with non-functioning pituitary adenomas (NFPA) in a cross-sectional case–control (n = 106, age-, gender-matched) study using qPCR. Linear regression models were used to identify independent predictors of telomere length.
We show that patients with NFPA exhibited shorter telomeres than controls. No significant association of indices of growth hormone deficiency (IGF-1-level-SDS, years of unsubstituted growth hormone deficiency etc.) with telomere length was detected. Interestingly, linear regression analysis showed that hydrocortisone replacement dosage in patients with adrenal insufficiency (n = 52) was a significant predictor for shorter telomere length (β = 0.377; P = 0.018) independent of potential confounders (gender, age, BMI, arterial hypertension, systolic blood pressure, number of antihypertensive drugs, total leukocyte count, waist-to-hip ratio, waist circumference, diabetes mellitus type 2, HbA1c, current statin use). Median split analysis revealed that higher hydrocortisone intake (>20 mg) was associated with significantly shorter telomeres.
These observations strengthen the importance of adjusted glucocorticoid treatment in NFPA patients with respect to morbidity and mortality rates.
Ivar Følling, Anna B Wennerstrøm, Tor J Eide, and Hilde Loge Nilsen
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.