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Brian Harding, Manuel C Lemos, Anita A C Reed, Gerard V Walls, Jeshmi Jeyabalan, Michael R Bowl, Hilda Tateossian, Nicky Sullivan, Tertius Hough, William D Fraser, Olaf Ansorge, Michael T Cheeseman, and Rajesh V Thakker

Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized in man by parathyroid, pancreatic, pituitary and adrenal tumours. The MEN1 gene encodes a 610-amino acid protein (menin) which is a tumour suppressor. To investigate the in vivo role of menin, we developed a mouse model, by deleting Men1 exons 1 and 2 and investigated this for MEN1-associated tumours and serum abnormalities. Men1 +/− mice were viable and fertile, and 220 Men1 +/− and 94 Men1 +/+ mice were studied between the ages of 3 and 21 months. Survival in Men1 +/− mice was significantly lower than in Men1 +/+ mice (<68% vs >85%, P<0.01). Men1 +/− mice developed, by 9 months of age, parathyroid hyperplasia, pancreatic tumours which were mostly insulinomas, by 12 months of age, pituitary tumours which were mostly prolactinomas, and by 15 months parathyroid adenomas and adrenal cortical tumours. Loss of heterozygosity and menin expression was demonstrated in the tumours, consistent with a tumour suppressor role for the Men1 gene. Men1 +/− mice with parathyroid neoplasms were hypercalcaemic and hypophosphataemic, with inappropriately normal serum parathyroid hormone concentrations. Pancreatic and pituitary tumours expressed chromogranin A (CgA), somatostatin receptor type 2 and vascular endothelial growth factor-A. Serum CgA concentrations in Men1 +/− mice were not elevated. Adrenocortical tumours, which immunostained for 3-β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, developed in seven Men1 +/− mice, but resulted in hypercorticosteronaemia in one out of the four mice that were investigated. Thus, these Men1 +/− mice are representative of MEN1 in man, and will help in investigating molecular mechanisms and treatments for endocrine tumours.

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Vincenzo Corbo, Irene Dalai, Maria Scardoni, Stefano Barbi, Stefania Beghelli, Samantha Bersani, Luca Albarello, Claudio Doglioni, Christina Schott, Paola Capelli, Marco Chilosi, Letizia Boninsegna, Karl-Friedrich Becker, Massimo Falconi, and Aldo Scarpa

Pancreatic endocrine tumors (PETs) may be part of hereditary multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome. While MEN1 gene mutation is the only ascertained genetic anomaly described in PETs, no data exist on the cellular localization of MEN1-encoded protein, menin, in normal pancreas and PETs. A total of 169 PETs were used to assess the i) MEN1 gene mutational status in 100 clinically sporadic PETs by direct DNA sequencing, ii) immunohistochemical expression of menin in normal pancreas and 140 PETs, including 71 cases screened for gene mutations, and iii) correlation of these findings with clinical–pathological parameters. Twenty-seven PETs showed mutations that were somatic in 25 patients and revealed to be germline in 2 patients. Menin immunostaining showed strong nuclear and very faint cytoplasmic signal in normal islet cells, whereas it displayed abnormal location and expression levels in 80% of tumors. PETs harboring MEN1 truncating mutations lacked nuclear protein, and most PETs with MEN1 missense mutations showed a strong cytoplasmic positivity for menin. Menin was also misplaced in a significant number of cases lacking MEN1 mutations. In conclusion, the vast majority of PETs showed qualitative and/or quantitative alterations in menin localization. In 30% of cases, this was associated with MEN1 mutations affecting sequences involved in nuclear localization or protein–protein interaction. In cases lacking MEN1 mutations, the alteration of one of the menin interactors may have prevented its proper localization, as suggested by recent data showing that menin protein shuttles between the nucleus and cytoplasm and also affects the subcellular localization of its interactors.

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F Cetani, E Pardi, E Ambrogini, P Viacava, S Borsari, M Lemmi, L Cianferotti, P Miccoli, A Pinchera, A Arnold, and C Marcocci

Early onset of primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) and multiglandular involvement suggest a familial form in which germline mutation of a PHPT-related gene(s) and a somatic event at the same locus can be often demonstrated. We investigated the involvement of multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) and HRPT2 genes in a 39-year-old man with recurrent PHPT. PHPT was firstly diagnosed at the age of 21 and the patient had two recurrences separated by extended periods of normocalcemia. This unusual history prompted us to investigate other family members and study the MEN1 and HRPT2 genes. An HRPT2 germline missense mutation in exon 3 (R91P) was found in the index case, which was associated with different HRPT2 somatic alterations in each of the three examined parathyroid tumors. These findings are consistent with Knudson’s ‘two hit’ concept of biallelic inactivation of classical tumor suppressor genes. Screening of 15 asymptomatic relatives was negative for the R91P germline mutation. All the three abnormal parathyroid specimens showed cystic features at histology and were negative for parafibromin immunostaining. In one specimen, diffuse parafibromin staining was evident in a rim of normal parathyroid tissue surrounding the adenomatous lesion. Our study shows that different somatic genetic events at the HRPT2 locus are responsible for the asynchronous occurrence of multiple adenomas in a patient carrying an HRPT2 germline mutation. The finding of diffuse parafibromin staining in a rim of normal parathyroid tissue, but not in the contiguous adenomatous lesion, reinforces the concept that loss of parafibromin expression is responsible for the development of parathyroid tumors in this setting.

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G Eisenhofer, T-T Huynh, K Pacak, F M Brouwers, M M Walther, W M Linehan, P J Munson, M Mannelli, D S Goldstein, and A G Elkahloun

Pheochromocytomas in von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) syndrome produce exclusively norepinephrine, whereas those in multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2) produce epinephrine. This study examined the pathways activated in VHL-associated pheochromocytomas by comparing gene expression profiles in VHL and MEN 2 tumors in relationship to profiles in sporadic norepinephrine- and epinephrine-producing tumors. Larger and more distinct differences in gene expression among hereditary than sporadic tumors indicated the importance of the underlying mutation to gene expression profiles. Many of the genes over-expressed in VHL compared with MEN 2 tumors were clearly linked to the hypoxia-driven angiogenic pathways that are activated in VHL-associated tumorigenesis. Such genes included those for the glucose transporter, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), placental growth factor, angiopoietin 2, tie-1, VEGF receptor 2 and its coreceptor, neuropilin-1. Other up-regulated genes, such as connective tissue growth factor, cysteine-rich 61, matrix metalloproteinase 1, vascular endothelial cadherin, tenascin C, stanniocalcin 1, and cyclooxygenases 1 and 2 are known to be involved in VEGF-regulated angiogenesis. Shared differences in expression of subsets of genes in norepinephrine- versus epinephrine-producing hereditary and sporadic pheochromocytomas indicated other differences in gene expression that may underlie the biochemical phenotype. Over-expression of the hypoxia-inducible transcription factor, HIF-2α, in norepinephrine-predominant sporadic and VHL tumors compared with epinephrine-producing tumors indicates that expression of this gene depends on the noradrenergic biochemical phenotype. The findings fit with the known expression of HIF-2α in norepinephrine-producing cells of the sympathetic nervous system and might explain both the development and noradrenergic biochemical phenotype of pheochromocytomas in VHL syndrome.

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C D E Margetts, D Astuti, D C Gentle, W N Cooper, A Cascon, D Catchpoole, M Robledo, H P H Neumann, F Latif, and E R Maher

Phaeochromocytoma is a neural-crest-derived tumour that may be a feature of several familial cancer syndromes including von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease, multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2), neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) and germline succinate dehydrogenase subunit (SDHB and SDHD) mutations. However the somatic genetic and epigenetic events that occur in phaeochromocytoma tumourigenesis are not well defined. Epigenetic events including de novo promoter methylation of tumour-suppressor genes are frequent in many human neoplasms. As neuroblastoma and phaeochromocytoma are both neural-crest-derived tumours, we postulated that some epigenetic events might be implicated in both tumour types and wished to establish how somatic epigenetic alterations compared in VHL-associated and sporadic phaeochromocytomas. We identified frequent aberrant methylation of HIC1 (82%) and CASP8 (31%) in phaeochromocytoma, but both genes were significantly more methylated in VHL phaeochromocytomas than in sporadic cases. Of four tumour necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) receptors analysed, DR4 was most commonly methylated (41%; compared with DcR2 (26%), DcR1 (23%) and DR5 (10%)). Gene methylation patterns in phaeochromocytoma and neuroblastoma did not differ significantly suggesting overlapping mechanisms of tumourigenesis. We also investigated the role of 11p15.5-imprinted genes in phaeochromocytoma. We found that in 10 sporadic and VHL phaeochromocytomas with 11p15.5 allele loss, the patterns of methylation of 11p15.5-differentially methylated regions were consistent with maternal, rather than, paternal chromosome loss in all cases (P<0.001). This suggests that 11p15.5-imprinted genes may be implicated in the pathogenesis of both familial (germline VHL and SDHD mutations) and sporadic phaeochromocytomas.

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Sunita K Agarwal

The identification of the multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) gene in 1997 has shown that germline heterozygous mutations in the MEN1 gene located on chromosome 11q13 predisposes to the development of tumors in the MEN1 syndrome. Tumor development occurs upon loss of the remaining normal copy of the MEN1 gene in MEN1-target tissues. Therefore, MEN1 is a classic tumor suppressor gene in the context of MEN1. This tumor suppressor role of the protein encoded by the MEN1 gene, menin, holds true in mouse models with germline heterozygous Men1 loss, wherein MEN1-associated tumors develop in adult mice after spontaneous loss of the remaining non-targeted copy of the Men1 gene. The availability of genetic testing for mutations in the MEN1 gene has become an essential part of the diagnosis and management of MEN1. Genetic testing is also helping to exclude mutation-negative cases in MEN1 families from the burden of lifelong clinical screening. In the past 20 years, efforts of various groups world-wide have been directed at mutation analysis, molecular genetic studies, mouse models, gene expression studies, epigenetic regulation analysis, biochemical studies and anti-tumor effects of candidate therapies in mouse models. This review will focus on the findings and advances from these studies to identify MEN1 germline and somatic mutations, the genetics of MEN1-related states, several protein partners of menin, the three-dimensional structure of menin and menin-dependent target genes. The ongoing impact of all these studies on disease prediction, management and outcomes will continue in the years to come.

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D Cecchin, F Lumachi, M C Marzola, G Opocher, C Scaroni, P Zucchetta, F Mantero, and F Bui

As observed by other authors, normal adrenal medullary tissue frequently gives an apparently positive meta-iodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan in cases studied using 123I-MIBG and less frequently 131I-MIBG. The aim of this study was to assess the usefulness of a scoring system, based on different uptakes of the radiopharmaceutical, to improve the accuracy of 123I-MIBG scintigraphy in patients with either adrenal or extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas. Charts from 67 consecutive patients (29 males and 38 females, median age 48 years, range 14–80 years) with suspected pheochromocytoma (either sporadic or familial: multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) 2a, MEN2b, Von Hippel–Lindau, neurofibromatosis type 1) who underwent 123I-MIBG scintigraphy (scans acquired 4–24 h after injection) from 1991 to 2004, were independently reviewed by two experienced nuclear medicine physicians using liver uptake as a reference (scores: 1, uptake absent or less than the liver; 2, equal to the liver; 3, moderately more intense than the liver; 4, markedly more intense than the liver). Interfering medications were discontinued for the appropriate time before MIBG injection. Histological data were obtained for all patients who underwent adrenalectomy. Scintigraphies were classified as positive using the following criteria: extra-adrenal focal uptake, adrenal enlargement together with non-homogeneous uptake and adrenal uptake more intense than the liver (score 3–4). After surgical resection, as confirmed by histological findings and long-term follow-up (range 1–14 years, average 9.25 years), 43 patients were considered true positives using the proposed scoring system, 20 were true negatives, four were false negatives and none was false positive. In conclusion, the proposed scoring system demonstrated high specificity (100%), sensitivity (91.5%) and accuracy (94%) in the management of pheochromocytoma. Positive predictive value and negative predictive value were 100% and 83.3% respectively. Normal adrenal tissue uptake was correctly discriminated from pheochromocytomas in 18 out of 20 patients, with adrenal uptake equal to the liver (grade 2), using the proposed cut-off level.

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Andreas Machens and Henning Dralle

Genetic association studies hinge on definite clinical case definitions of the disease of interest. This is why more penetrant mutations were overrepresented in early multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2) studies, whereas less penetrant mutations went underrepresented. Enrichment of genetic association studies with advanced disease may produce a flawed understanding of disease evolution, precipitating far-reaching surgical strategies like bilateral total adrenalectomy and 4-gland parathyroidectomy in MEN2. The insight into the natural course of the disease gleaned over the past 25 years caused a paradigm shift in MEN2: from the removal of target organs at the expense of greater operative morbidity to close biochemical surveillance and targeted resection of adrenal tumors and hyperplastic parathyroid glands. The lead time provided by early identification of asymptomatic MEN2 carriers under biochemical surveillance delimits a ‘window of opportunity’, within which (i) pre-emptive total thyroidectomy alone is adequate, circumventing morbidity attendant to central node dissection; (ii) subtotal ‘tissue-sparing’ adrenalectomy is sufficient, trading the risk of steroid dependency for the risk of a second pheochromocytoma in the adrenal remnant and (iii) parathyroidectomy is limited to enlarged glands, trading the risk of postoperative hypoparathyroidism for the risk of leaving behind hyperactive parathyroid glands. Future research should delineate further the mutation-specific, age-dependent penetrance of pheochromocytoma and primary hyperparathyroidism to refine the risk-oriented approach to MEN2. The sweeping changes in the management of MEN2 since the new millenium hold the hope that death and major morbidity from this uncommon disease can be eliminated in our lifetime.

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Lisa D Berman-Booty and Karen E Knudsen

Prostate cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the USA and most western countries. Prostatic acinar adenocarcinoma is the most commonly diagnosed form of prostate cancer. Small-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma is less frequently identified at the time of initial diagnosis, but this highly aggressive form of prostate cancer is increasingly observed in patients who have failed first- and second-line hormone therapy. Thus, developing and exploring models of neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NePC) are of increasing importance. This review examines the relevant xenograft tumor and genetically engineered mouse models of NePC, with the aim of addressing salient features and clinical relevance.

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Eva-Maria Duerr, Yusuke Mizukami, Aylwin Ng, Ramnik J Xavier, Hirotoshi Kikuchi, Vikram Deshpande, Andrew L Warshaw , Jonathan Glickman, Matthew H Kulke, and Daniel C Chung

Current classifications of human gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are inconsistent and based upon histopathologic but not molecular features. We sought to compare a molecular classification with the World Health Organization (WHO) histologic classification, identify genes that may be important for tumor progression, and determine whether gastrointestinal NETs (GI-NETs) differ in their molecular profile from pancreatic NETs (PNETs). DNA microarray analysis was performed to identify differentially expressed genes in PNETs and GI-NETs. Confirmation of expression levels was obtained by quantitative real-time PCR. Immunoblotting and mutational analysis were performed for selected genes. Hierarchical clustering of 19 PNETs revealed a ‘benign’ and ‘malignant’ cluster that corresponded well with the WHO categories of well-differentiated endocrine tumor (WDET) and well-differentiated endocrine carcinoma (WDEC) respectively. FEV, adenylate cyclase 2 (ADCY2), nuclear receptor subfamily 4, group A, member 2 (NR4A2), and growth arrest and DNA-damage-inducible, beta (GADD45b) were the most highly up-regulated genes in the malignant group of PNETs. Platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR) was expressed in both WDETs and WDECs, and phosphorylation of PDGFR-β was observed in 83% of all PNETs. Malignant ileal GI-NETs exhibited a distinctive gene expression profile, and extracellular matrix protein 1 (ECM), vesicular monoamine member 1 (VMAT1), galectin 4 (LGALS4), and RET Proto-oncogene (RET) were highly up-regulated genes. Gene expression profiles reflect the current WHO classification and can distinguish benign from malignant PNETs and also PNETs from GI-NETs. This suggests that molecular profiling may enhance tumor classification schemes. Potential gene targets have also been identified, and PDGFR and RET are candidates that may represent novel therapeutic targets.