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Open access

Henrik Falhammar, Magnus Kjellman, and Jan Calissendorff

Background

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).

Methods

We reviewed 94 consecutive cases of pheochromocytomas. Two cases of ectopic ACTH-syndrome were subsequently excluded.

Results

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.

Conclusion

Clinicians need to be aware of the modern presentation of pheochromocytomas since early identification can be life-saving.

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

Anastasia P Athanasoulia-Kaspar, Matthias K Auer, Günter K Stalla, and Mira Jakovcevski

Objective

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).

Design/methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusion

These observations strengthen the importance of adjusted glucocorticoid treatment in NFPA patients with respect to morbidity and mortality rates.

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

Tatiana V Novoselova, Peter J King, Leonardo Guasti, Louise A Metherell, Adrian J L Clark, and Li F Chan

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.

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

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

Sirazum Choudhury, Tricia Tan, Katharine Lazarus, and Karim Meeran

The introduction of adrenocortical extract in 1930 improved the life expectancy of hyhpoadrenal patients, with further increases seen after the introduction of cortisone acetate from 1948. Most patients are now treated with synthetic hydrocortisone, and incremental advances have been made with optimisation of daily dosing and the introduction of multidose regimens. There remains a significant mortality gap between individuals with treated hypoadrenalism and the general population. It is unclear whether this gap is a result of glucocorticoid over-replacement, under-replacement or loss of the circadian and ultradian rhythm of cortisol secretion, with the risk of detrimental excess glucocorticoid exposure at later times in the day. The way forwards will involve replacement of the diurnal cortisol rhythm with better glucocorticoid replacement regimens. The steroid profile produced by both prednisolone and dual-release hydrocortisone (Plenadren), provide a smoother glucocorticoid profile of cortisol than standard oral multidose regimens of hydrocortisone and cortisone acetate. The individualisation of prednisolone doses and lower bioavailability of Plenadren offer reductions in total steroid exposure. Although there is emerging evidence of both treatments offering better cardiometabolic outcomes than standard glucocorticoid replacement regimens, there is a paucity of evidence involving very low dose prednisolone (2–4 mg daily) compared to the larger doses (~7.5 mg) historically used. Data from upcoming clinical studies on prednisolone will therefore be of key importance in informing future practice.

Open access

Yiyan Wang, Yaoyao Dong, Yinghui Fang, Yao Lv, Qiqi Zhu, Xiaoheng Li, Qingquan Lian, and Ren-Shan Ge

Glucocorticoid hormone might cause intrauterine growth restriction. The glucocorticoid-metabolizing enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 (HSD11B2) in the placenta eliminates excess levels of glucocorticoids during pregnancy. The aim of the current study was to define the effects of diethylstilbestrol (DES) on HSD11B2 activity in the mammalian placentas and identify its mode of action. Rat and human placental microsomal HSD11B2 were incubated with different concentrations of DES, and IC50 values were determined. The mode of action was analyzed by incubation of DES together with substrates, glucocorticoid and NAD+. DES suppressed rat and human HSD11B2 with IC50 values of 5.33 and 12.62 μM, respectively. DES was a competitive inhibitor of rat and human HSD11B2 when steroid substrates were added, while it was an uncompetitive inhibitor when cofactor NAD+ was exposed. Oral administration of DES (0.5 mg/kg) to the rat delayed the cortisol metabolism in adult female Sprague–Dawley rats, as indicated by the increases in cortisol’s elimination half-life, maximum concentration and area under the curve. In conclusion, DES is a potent HSD11B2 inhibitor, possibly contributing to the intrauterine growth restriction.