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Free access

Zhengping Zhuang, Chunzhang Yang, Ales Ryska, Yuan Ji, Yingyong Hou, Sky D Graybill, Petra Bullova, Irina A Lubensky, Günter Klöppel, and Karel Pacak

Open access

Trisha Dwight, Edward Kim, Karine Bastard, Diana E Benn, Graeme Eisenhofer, Susan Richter, Massimo Mannelli, Elena Rapizzi, Aleksander Prejbisz, Mariola Peczkowska, Karel Pacak, and Roderick Clifton-Bligh

Mosaic or somatic EPAS1 mutations are associated with a range of phenotypes including pheochromocytoma and/or paraganglioma (PPGL), polycythaemia and somatostatinoma. The pathogenic potential of germline EPAS1 variants however is not well understood. We report a number of germline EPAS1 variants occurring in patients with PPGL, including a novel variant c.739C>A (p.Arg247Ser); a previously described variant c.1121T>A (p.Phe374Tyr); several rare variants, c.581A>G (p.His194Arg), c.2353C>A (p.Pro785Thr) and c.2365A>G (p.Ile789Val); and a common variant c.2296A>C (p.Thr766Pro). We performed detailed functional studies to understand their pathogenic role in PPGL. In transient transfection studies, EPAS1/HIF-2α p.Arg247Ser, p.Phe374Tyr and p.Pro785Thr were all stable in normoxia. In co-immunoprecipitation assays, only the novel variant p.Arg247Ser showed diminished interaction with pVHL. A direct interaction between HIF-2α Arg247 and pVHL was confirmed in structural models. Transactivation was assessed by means of a HRE-containing reporter gene in transiently transfected cells, and significantly higher reporter activity was only observed with EPAS1/HIF-2α p.Phe374Tyr and p.Pro785Thr.

In conclusion, three germline EPAS1 variants (c.739C>A (p.Arg247Ser), c.1121T>A (p.Phe374Tyr) and c.2353C>A (p.Pro785Thr)) all have some functional features in common with somatic activating mutations. Our findings suggest that these three germline variants are hypermorphic alleles that may act as modifiers to the expression of PPGLs.

Free access

Vanessa D'Antongiovanni, Serena Martinelli, Susan Richter, Letizia Canu, Daniele Guasti, Tommaso Mello, Paolo Romagnoli, Karel Pacak, Graeme Eisenhofer, Massimo Mannelli, and Elena Rapizzi

Pheochromocytomas (Pheos) and paragangliomas (PGLs) are neuroendocrine tumors. Approximately 30–40% of Pheos/PGLs are due to germline mutations in one of the susceptibility genes, including those encoding the succinate dehydrogenase subunits A-D (SDHA-D). Up to 2/3 of patients affected by SDHB mutated Pheo/PGL develop metastatic disease with no successful cure at present. Here, for the first time, we evaluated the effects of SDHB silencing in a three dimension (3D) culture using spheroids of a mouse Pheo cell line silenced or not (wild type/wt/control) for the SDHB subunit. We investigated the role of the microenvironment on spheroid growth and migration/invasion by co-culturing SDHB-silenced or wt spheroids with primary cancer-activated fibroblasts (CAFs). When spheroids were co-cultured with fibroblasts, SDHB-silenced cells showed a significant increase in matrigel invasion as demonstrated by the computation of the migratory areas (P < 0.001). Moreover, cells detaching from the SDHB-silenced spheroids moved collectively, unlike the cells of wt spheroids that moved individually. Additionally, SDHB-silenced spheroids developed long filamentous formations along which clusters of cells migrated far away from the spheroid, whereas these structures were not present in wt spheroids. We found that lactate, largely secreted by CAFs, plays a specific role in promoting migration only of SDHB-silenced cells. In this study, we demonstrated that SDHB silencing per se increases tumor cell migration/invasion and that microenvironment, as represented by CAFs, plays a pivotal role in enhancing collective migration/invasion in Pheo SDHB-silenced tumor cells, suggesting their role in increasing the tumor metastasizing potential.

Free access

Arthur Varoquaux, Yann le Fur, Alessio Imperiale, Antony Reyre, Marion Montava, Nicolas Fakhry, Izzie-Jacques Namer, Guy Moulin, Karel Pacak, Maxime Guye, and David Taïeb

Paragangliomas (PGLs) can be associated with mutations in genes of the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Succinate dehydrogenase (SDHx) mutations are the prime examples of genetically determined TCA cycle defects with accumulation of succinate. Succinate, which acts as an oncometabolite, can be detected by ex vivo metabolomics approaches. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential role of proton magnetic resonance (MR) spectroscopy (1H-MRS) for identifying SDHx-related PGLs in vivo and noninvasively. Eight patients were prospectively evaluated with single voxel 1H-MRS. MR spectra from eight tumors (four SDHx-related PGLs, two sporadic PGLs, one cervical schwannoma, and one cervical neurofibroma) were acquired and interpreted qualitatively. Compared to other tumors, a succinate resonance peak was detected only in SDHx-related tumor patients. Spectra quality was considered good in three cases, medium in two cases, poor in two cases, and uninterpretable in the latter case. Smaller lesions had lower spectra quality compared to larger lesions. Jugular PGLs also exhibited a poorer spectra quality compared to other locations. 1H-MRS has always been challenging in terms of its technical requisites. This is even more true for the evaluation of head and neck tumors. However, 1H-MRS might be added to the classical MR sequences for metabolomic characterization of PGLs. In vivo detection of succinate might guide genetic testing, characterize SDHx variants of unknown significance (in the absence of available tumor sample), and even optimize a selection of appropriate therapies.

Free access

Tomáš Zelinka, Henri J L M Timmers, Anna Kozupa, Clara C Chen, Jorge A Carrasquillo, James C Reynolds, Alexander Ling, Graeme Eisenhofer, Ivica Lazúrová, Karen T Adams, Millie A Whatley, Jiří Widimský Jr, and Karel Pacak

We performed a retrospective analysis of 71 subjects with metastatic pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma (30 subjects with mutation of succinate dehydrogenase enzyme subunit B (SDHB) gene and 41 subjects without SDHB mutation). Sixty-nine percent presented with bone metastases (SDHB +/−: 77% vs 63%), 39% with liver metastases (SDHB +/−: 27% vs 47%), and 32% with lung metastases (SDHB +/−: 37% vs 29%). The most common sites of bone involvement were thoracic spine (80%; SDHB+/−: 83% vs 77%), lumbar spine (78%; SDHB +/−: 78% vs 75%), and pelvic and sacral bones (78%; SDHB +/−: 91% vs 65%, P=0.04). Subjects with SDHB mutation also showed significantly higher involvement of long bones (SDHB +/−: 78% vs 30%, P=0.007) than those without the mutation. The best overall sensitivity in detecting bone metastases demonstrated positron emission tomography (PET) with 6-[18F]-fluorodopamine ([18F]-FDA; 90%), followed by bone scintigraphy (82%), computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (CT/MRI; 78%), 2-[18F]-fluoro-2-deoxy-d-glucose ([18F]-FDG) PET (76%), and scintigraphy with [123/131I]-metaiodobenzylguanidine (71%). In subjects with SDHB mutation, imaging modalities with best sensitivities for detecting bone metastases were CT/MRI (96%), bone scintigraphy (95%), and [18F]-FDG PET (92%). In subjects without SDHB mutations, the modality with the best sensitivity for bone metastases was [18F]-FDA PET (100%). In conclusion, bone scintigraphy should be used in the staging of patients with malignant pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma, particularly in patients with SDHB mutations. As for PET imaging, [18F]-FDG PET is highly recommended in SDHB mutation patients, whereas [18F]-FDA PET is recommended in patients without the mutation.

Free access

Lucia Martiniova, Shiromi M Perera, Frederieke M Brouwers, Salvatore Alesci, Mones Abu-Asab, Amanda F Marvelle, Dale O Kiesewetter, David Thomasson, John C Morris, Richard Kvetnansky, Arthur S Tischler, James C Reynolds, Antonio Tito Fojo, and Karel Pacak

[131I]meta-iodobenzylguanidine ([131I]MIBG) is the most commonly used treatment for metastatic pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma. It enters the chromaffin cells via the membrane norepinephrine transporter; however, its success has been modest. We studied the ability of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors to enhance [123I]MIBG uptake by tumors in a mouse metastatic pheochromocytoma model. HDAC inhibitors are known to arrest growth, induce differentiation and apoptosis in various cancer cells, and further inhibit tumor growth. We report the in vitro and in vivo effects of two HDAC inhibitors, romidepsin and trichostatin A, on the uptake of [3H]norepinephrine, [123I]MIBG, and [18F]fluorodopamine in a mouse model of metastatic pheochromocytoma. The effects of both inhibitors on norepinephrine transporter activity were assessed in mouse pheochromocytoma (MPC) cells by using the transporter-blocking agent desipramine and the vesicular-blocking agent reserpine. HDAC inhibitors increased [3H]norepinephrine, [123I]MIBG, and [18F]fluorodopamine uptake through the norepinephrine transporter in MPC cells. In vivo, inhibitor treatment resulted in significantly increased uptake of [18F]fluorodopamine positron emission tomography (PET) in pheochromocytoma liver metastases (19.1±3.2% injected dose per gram of tumor (%ID/g) compared to liver metastases in pretreatment scans 5.9±0.6%; P<0.001). Biodistribution analysis after inhibitors treatment confirmed the PET results. The uptake of [123I]MIBG was significantly increased in liver metastases 9.5±1.1% compared to 3.19±0.4% in untreated control liver metastases (P<0.05). We found that HDAC inhibitors caused an increase in the amount of norepinephrine transporter expressed in tumors. HDAC inhibitors may enhance the therapeutic efficacy of [131I]MIBG treatment in patients with advanced malignant pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma.

Free access

Frederieke M Brouwers, Sven Gläsker, Amanda F Nave, Alexander O Vortmeyer, Irina Lubensky, Steven Huang, Mones S Abu-Asab, Graeme Eisenhofer, Robert J Weil, Deric M Park, W Marston Linehan, Karel Pacak, and Zhengping Zhuang

Pheochromocytomas are catecholamine-producing tumors that can occur in the context of von Hippel–Lindau syndrome (VHL) and multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2). Pheochromocytomas in these two syndromes differ in histopathological features, catecholamine metabolism, and clinical phenotype. To further investigate the nature of these differences, we compared the global protein expressions of 8 MEN2A-associated pheochromocytomas with 11 VHL-associated pheochromocytomas by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis proteomic profiling followed by sequencing and identification of differentially expressed proteins. Although both types of pheochromocytoma shared similarities in their protein expression patterns, the expression of several proteins was distinctly different between VHL- and MEN2A-associated pheochromocytomas. We identified several of these differentially expressed proteins. One of the proteins with higher expression in MEN2-associated tumors was chromogranin B, of which the differential expression was confirmed by western blot analysis. Our results expand the evidence for proteomic differences between these two tumor entities, and suggest that VHL-associated pheochromocytomas may be deficient in fundamental machinery for catecholamine storage. In light of these new findings, as well as existing evidence for differences between both types of pheochromocytomas, we propose that these tumors may have different developmental origins.

Free access

Maya B Lodish, Karen T Adams, Thanh T Huynh, Tamara Prodanov, Alex Ling, Clara Chen, Suzanne Shusterman, Camilo Jimenez, Maria Merino, Marybeth Hughes, Kendall W Cradic, Dragana Milosevic, Ravinder J Singh, Constantine A Stratakis, and Karel Pacak

Organ of Zuckerkandl paragangliomas (PGLs) are rare neuroendocrine tumors that are derived from chromaffin cells located around the origin of the inferior mesenteric artery extending to the level of the aortic bifurcation. Mutations in the genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDH) B, C, and D (SDHx) have been associated with PGLs, but their contribution to PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl PGLs is not known. We aimed to describe the clinical presentation of patients with PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl and investigate the prevalence of SDHx mutations and other genetic defects among them. The clinical characteristics of 14 patients with PGL of the organ of Zuckerkandl were analyzed retrospectively; their DNA was tested for SDHx mutations and deletions. Eleven out of 14 (79%) patients with PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl were found to have mutations in the SDHB (9) or SDHD (2) genes; one patient was found to have the Carney–Stratakis syndrome (CSS), and his PGL was discovered during surgery for gastrointestinal stromal tumor. Our results show that SDHx mutations are prevalent in pediatric and adult PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl. Patients with PGLs of the organ of Zuckerkandl should be screened for SDHx mutations and the CSS; in addition, asymptomatic carriers of an SDHx mutation among the relatives of affected patients may benefit from tumor screening for early PGL detection.

Free access

Graeme Eisenhofer, Karel Pacak, Thanh-Truc Huynh, Nan Qin, Gennady Bratslavsky, W Marston Linehan, Massimo Mannelli, Peter Friberg, Stefan K Grebe, Henri J Timmers, Stefan R Bornstein, and Jacques W M Lenders

Phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs) are highly heterogeneous tumours with variable catecholamine biochemical phenotypes and diverse hereditary backgrounds. This analysis of 18 catecholamine-related plasma and urinary biomarkers in 365 patients with PPGLs and 846 subjects without PPGLs examined how catecholamine metabolomic profiles are impacted by hereditary background and relate to variable hormone secretion. Catecholamine secretion was assessed in a subgroup of 156 patients from whom tumour tissue was available for measurements of catecholamine contents. Among all analytes, the free catecholamine O-methylated metabolites measured in plasma showed the largest tumour-related increases relative to the reference group. Patients with tumours due to multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) showed similar catecholamine metabolite and secretory profiles to patients with adrenaline-producing tumours and no evident hereditary background. Tumours from these three patient groups contained higher contents of catecholamines, but secreted the hormones at lower rates than tumours that did not contain appreciable adrenaline, the latter including PPGLs due to von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) and succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) gene mutations. Large increases of plasma dopamine and its metabolites additionally characterised patients with PPGLs due to the latter mutations, whereas patients with NF1 were characterised by large increases in plasma dihydroxyphenylglycol and dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, the deaminated metabolites of noradrenaline and dopamine. This analysis establishes the utility of comprehensive catecholamine metabolite profiling for characterising the distinct and highly diverse catecholamine metabolomic and secretory phenotypes among different groups of patients with PPGLs. The data further suggest developmental origins of PPGLs from different populations of chromaffin cell progenitors.

Free access

Hans K Ghayee, Bas Havekes, Eleonora P M Corssmit, Graeme Eisenhofer, Stephen R Hammes, Zahid Ahmad, Alexander Tessnow, Ivica Lazúrová, Karen T Adams, Antonio T Fojo, Karel Pacak, and Richard J Auchus

Extra-adrenal pheochromocytomas, otherwise known as paragangliomas (PGLs), account for about 20% of catecholamine-producing tumors. Catecholamine excess and mutations in the genes encoding succinate dehydrogenase subunits (SDHx) are frequently found in patients with PGLs. Only 2% of PGLs are found in the mediastinum, and little is known about genetic alterations in patients with mediastinal PGLs, catecholamine production by these tumors, or their clinical behavior. We hypothesized that most mediastinal PGLs are associated with germ line SDHx mutations, norepinephrine and/or dopamine excess, and aggressive behavior. The objective of this study was to characterize genetic, biochemical, and clinical data in a series of ten patients with mediastinal PGLs. All ten primary mediastinal PGL patients had germ line SDHx mutations, six in SDHB, and four in SDHD genes. Chest or back pain were the most common presenting symptoms (five patients), and catecholamines and/or their metabolites were elevated in seven patients. Additional tumors included head and neck PGLs in four patients, pheochromocytoma in one patient, and bladder PGL in another. Metastatic disease was documented in six patients (60%), and a concurrent abdominal mass was found in one patient. We conclude that mediastinal PGLs are strongly associated with SDHB and SDHD gene mutations, noradrenergic phenotype, and aggressive behavior. The present data suggest that all patients with mediastinal PGLs should be screened for SDHx gene mutations, regardless of age.