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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

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

Thomas Reinehr, Alexandra Kulle, Juliane Rothermel, Caroline Knop-Schmenn, Nina Lass, Christina Bosse and Paul-Martin Holterhus

Objective

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.

Design

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

Open access

Aneta Gawlik, Michael Shmoish, Michaela F Hartmann, Stefan A Wudy, Zbigniew Olczak, Katarzyna Gruszczynska and Ze’ev Hochberg

Objective

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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).

Conclusions

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.

Open access

Lukas Engler, Christian Adolf, Daniel A Heinrich, Anna-Katharine Brem, Anna Riester, Anna Franke, Felix Beuschlein, Martin Reincke, Axel Steiger and Heike Künzel

Primary aldosteronism is a natural model for chronic aldosterone excess in humans and associated with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Cognitive deficits are inherent to the symptomatology of depression and anxiety disorders. Mineralocorticoid receptors and aldosterone appear to play a role in memory. Aldosterone was additionally supposed to be a risk factor for cognitive decline in patients with essential hypertension. The objective of this study was to investigate possible effects of chronically high aldosterone concentrations on cognitive function. A range of cognitive dimensions were assessed in 19 patients (9 males, 10 females); mean age 47.1 (12.5) under standardized treatment and several rating scales for anxiety, depression, quality of life and sleep were administered. Cognitive parameters were compared to standard norms from a large, healthy standardization sample. Patients showed increased levels of anxiety and depression without meeting diagnostic criteria for a disorder. Besides a numerically lower attention score, patients did not show any significant differences in the cognitive dimensions. Anxiety and depression were negatively correlated with quantitative performance in males. In females, a negative correlation between sleep disturbances and abstract reasoning and a positive correlation with quantitative performance were found. Our data showed no specific effect of chronic aldosterone in the tested cognitive parameters overall at least in younger patients, but they indicate sexually dimorphic regulation processes.

Open access

Frans H H Leenen, Mordecai P Blaustein and John M Hamlyn

In the brain, angiotensinergic pathways play a major role in chronic regulation of cardiovascular and electrolyte homeostasis. Increases in plasma angiotensin II (Ang II), aldosterone, [Na+] and cytokines can directly activate these pathways. Chronically, these stimuli also activate a slow neuromodulatory pathway involving local aldosterone, mineralocorticoid receptors (MRs), epithelial sodium channels and endogenous ouabain (EO). This pathway increases AT1R and NADPH oxidase subunits and maintains/further increases the activity of angiotensinergic pathways. These brain pathways not only increase the setpoint of sympathetic activity per se, but also enhance its effectiveness by increasing plasma EO and EO-dependent reprogramming of arterial and cardiac function. Blockade of any step in this slow pathway or of AT1R prevents Ang II-, aldosterone- or salt and renal injury-induced forms of hypertension. MR/AT1R activation in the CNS also contributes to the activation of sympathetic activity, the circulatory and cardiac RAAS and increase in circulating cytokines in HF post MI. Chronic central infusion of an aldosterone synthase inhibitor, MR blocker or AT1R blocker prevents a major part of the structural remodeling of the heart and the decrease in LV function post MI, indicating that MR activation in the CNS post MI depends on aldosterone, locally produced in the CNS. Thus, Ang II, aldosterone and EO are not simply circulating hormones that act on the CNS but rather they are also paracrine neurohormones, locally produced in the CNS, that exert powerful effects in key CNS pathways involved in the long-term control of sympathetic and neuro-endocrine function and cardiovascular homeostasis.

Open access

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

Objective

To study genotype–phenotype spectrum of triple A syndrome (TAS).

Methods

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).

Results

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.

Conclusion

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.

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

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.