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W Patricia Bandettini, Alexander S Karageorgiadis, Ninet Sinaii, Douglas R Rosing, Vandana Sachdev, Marie Helene Schernthaner-Reiter, Evgenia Gourgari, Georgios Z Papadakis, Meg F Keil, Charalampos Lyssikatos, J Aidan Carney, Andrew E Arai, Maya Lodish, and Constantine A Stratakis

Carney complex (CNC) is a multiple neoplasia syndrome that is caused mostly by PRKAR1A mutations. Cardiac myxomas are the leading cause of mortality in CNC patients who, in addition, often develop growth hormone (GH) excess. We studied patients with CNC, who were observed for over a period of 20 years (1995–2015) for the development of both GH excess and cardiac myxomas. GH secretion was evaluated by standard testing; dedicated cardiovascular imaging was used to detect cardiac abnormalities. Four excised cardiac myxomas were tested for the expression of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). A total of 99 CNC patients (97 with a PRKAR1A mutation) were included in the study with a mean age of 25.8 ± 16.6 years at presentation. Over an observed mean follow-up of 25.8 years, 60% of patients with GH excess (n = 46) developed a cardiac myxoma compared with only 36% of those without GH excess (n = 54) (P = 0.016). Overall, patients with GH excess were also more likely to have a tumor vs those with normal GH secretion (OR: 2.78, 95% CI: 1.23–6.29; P = 0.014). IGF-1 mRNA and protein were higher in CNC myxomas than in normal heart tissue. We conclude that the development of cardiac myxomas in CNC may be associated with increased GH secretion, in a manner analogous to the association between fibrous dysplasia and GH excess in McCune–Albright syndrome, a condition similar to CNC. We speculate that treatment of GH excess in patients with CNC may reduce the likelihood of cardiac myxoma formation and/or recurrence of this tumor.

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Eva Szarek, Evan R Ball, Alessio Imperiale, Maria Tsokos, Fabio R Faucz, Alessio Giubellino, François-Marie Moussallieh, Izzie-Jacques Namer, Mones S Abu-Asab, Karel Pacak, David Taïeb, J Aidan Carney, and Constantine A Stratakis

Carney triad (CTr) describes the association of paragangliomas (PGL), pulmonary chondromas, and gastrointestinal (GI) stromal tumors (GISTs) with a variety of other lesions, including pheochromocytomas and adrenocortical tumors. The gene(s) that cause CTr remain(s) unknown. PGL and GISTs may be caused by loss-of-function mutations in succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) (a condition known as Carney–Stratakis syndrome (CSS)). Mitochondrial structure and function are abnormal in tissues that carry SDH defects, but they have not been studied in CTr. For the present study, we examined mitochondrial structure in human tumors and GI tissue (GIT) of mice with SDH deficiency. Tissues from 16 CTr tumors (n=12), those with isolated GIST (n=1), and those with CSS caused by SDHC (n=1) and SDHD (n=2) mutations were studied by electron microscopy (EM). Samples of GIT from mice with a heterozygous deletion in Sdhb (Sdhb + /−, n=4) were also studied by EM. CTr patients presented with mostly epithelioid GISTs that were characterized by plump cells containing a centrally located, round nucleus and prominent nucleoli; these changes were almost identical to those seen in the GISTs of patients with SDH. In tumor cells from patients, regardless of diagnosis or tumor type, cytoplasm contained an increased number of mitochondria with a ‘hypoxic’ phenotype: mitochondria were devoid of cristae, exhibited structural abnormalities, and were of variable size. Occasionally, mitochondria were small and round; rarely, they were thin and elongated with tubular cristae. Many mitochondria exhibited amorphous fluffy material with membranous whorls or cystic structures. A similar mitochondrial hypoxic phenotype was seen in Sdhb + /− mice. We concluded that tissues from SDH-deficient tumors, those from mouse GIT, and those from CTr tumors shared identical abnormalities in mitochondrial structure and other features. Thus, the still-elusive CTr defect(s) is(are) likely to affect mitochondrial function, just like germline SDH-deficiency does.

Free access

Giampaolo Trivellin, Ricardo R Correa, Maria Batsis, Fabio R Faucz, Prashant Chittiboina, Ivana Bjelobaba, Darwin O Larco, Martha Quezado, Adrian F Daly, Stanko S Stojilkovic, T John Wu, Albert Beckers, Maya B Lodish, and Constantine A Stratakis

Cushing’s disease (CD) in children is caused by adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-secreting pituitary adenomas. Germline or somatic mutations in genes such as MEN1, CDKIs, AIP, and USP8 have been identified in pediatric CD, but the genetic defects in a significant percentage of cases are still unknown. In this study, we investigated the orphan G-protein-coupled receptor GPR101, a gene known to be involved in somatotropinomas, for its possible involvement in corticotropinomas. We performed GPR101 sequencing, expression analyses by RT-qPCR and immunostaining, and functional studies (cell proliferation, pituitary hormone secretion, and cAMP measurement) in a series of patients with sporadic CD secondary to ACTH-secreting adenomas in whom we extracted DNA from peripheral blood and pituitary tumor samples (n=36). No increased GPR101 expression was observed in tumors compared with normal pituitary (NP) tissues, nor did we find a correlation between GPR101 and ACTH expression levels. Sequence analysis revealed a very rare germline heterozygous GPR101 variant (p.G31S) in one patient with CD. Overexpression of the p.G31S variant did not lead to increased growth and proliferation, although modest effects on cAMP signaling were observed. GPR101 is not overexpressed in ACTH-secreting tumors compared with NPs. In conclusion, rare germline GPR101 variant was found in one patient with CD, but in vitro studies did not support a consistent pathogenic effect. GPR101 is unlikely to be involved in the pathogenesis of CD.

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Andrea Gutierrez Maria, Christina Tatsi, Annabel Berthon, Ludivine Drougat, Nikolaos Settas, Fady Hannah-Shmouni, Jerome Bertherat, Fabio R Faucz, and Constantine A Stratakis

Mutations in the protein kinase A (PKA) regulatory subunit type 1A (PRKAR1A) and armadillo repeat-containing 5 (ARMC5) genes cause Cushing‘s syndrome (CS) due to primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD) and primary bilateral macronodular adrenocortical hyperplasia (PBMAH), respectively. Between the two genes, ARMC5 is highly polymorphic with several variants in the population, whereas PRKAR1A has very little, if any, non-pathogenic variation in its coding sequence. We tested the hypothesis that ARMC5 variants may affect the clinical presentation of PPNAD and CS among patients with PRKAR1A mutations. In this study, 91 patients with PPNAD due to PRKAR1A mutations were tested for abnormal cortisol secretion or CS and for ARMC5 sequence variants. Abnormal cortisol secretion was present in 71 of 74 patients with ARMC5 variants, whereas 11 of 17 patients negative for ARMC5 variants did not have hypercortisolemia. The presence of ARMC5 variants was a statistically strong predictor of CS among patients with PRKAR1A mutations (P < 0.001). Among patients with CS due to PPNAD, ARMC5 variants were associated with lower cortisol levels at baseline (P = 0.04) and after high dose dexamethasone administration (P = 0.02). The ARMC5 p.I170V variant increased ARMC5 protein accumulation in vitro and decreased viability of NCI-H295 cells (but not HEK 293T cells). PPNAD tissues with ARMC5 variants showed stronger ARMC5 protein expression than those that carried a normal ARMC5 sequence. Taken together, our results suggest that ARMC5 variants among patients with PPNAD due to PRKAR1A defects may play the role of a genetic modifier for the presence and severity of hypercortisolemia.

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Stephanie Espiard, Ludivine Drougat, Nikolaos Settas, Sara Haydar, Kerstin Bathon, Edra London, Isaac Levy, Fabio R Faucz, Davide Calebiro, Jérôme Bertherat, Dong Li, Michael A Levine, and Constantine A Stratakis

Genetic variants in components of the protein kinase A (PKA) enzyme have been associated with various defects and neoplasms in the context of Carney complex (CNC) and in isolated cases, such as in primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD), cortisol-producing adrenal adenomas (CPAs), and various cancers. PRKAR1A mutations have been found in subjects with impaired cAMP-dependent signaling and skeletal defects; bone tumors also develop in both humans and mice with PKA abnormalities. We studied the PRKACB gene in 148 subjects with PPNAD and related disorders, who did not have other PKA-related defects and identified two subjects with possibly pathogenic PRKACB gene variants and unusual bone and endocrine phenotypes. The first presented with bone and other abnormalities and carried a de novo c.858_860GAA (p.K286del) variant. The second subject carried the c.899C>T (p.T300M or p.T347M in another isoform) variant and had a PPNAD-like phenotype. Both variants are highly conserved in the PRKACB gene. In functional studies, the p.K286del variant affected PRKACB protein stability and led to increased PKA signaling. The p.T300M variant did not affect protein stability or response to cAMP and its pathogenicity remains uncertain. We conclude that PRKACB germline variants are uncommon but may be associated with phenotypes that resemble those of other PKA-related defects. However, detailed investigation of each variant is needed as PRKACB appears to be only rarely affected in these conditions, and variants such as p.T300M maybe proven to be clinically insignificant, whereas others (such as p.K286del) are clearly pathogenic and may be responsible for a novel syndrome, associated with endocrine and skeletal abnormalities.

Free access

Florian Haller, Evgeny A Moskalev, Fabio R Faucz, Sarah Barthelmeß, Stefan Wiemann, Matthias Bieg, Guillaume Assie, Jerome Bertherat, Inga-Marie Schaefer, Claudia Otto, Eleanor Rattenberry, Eamonn R Maher, Philipp Ströbel, Martin Werner, J Aidan Carney, Arndt Hartmann, Constantine A Stratakis, and Abbas Agaimy

Carney triad (CT) is a rare condition with synchronous or metachronous occurrence of gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs), paragangliomas (PGLs), and pulmonary chondromas in a patient. In contrast to Carney–Stratakis syndrome (CSS) and familial PGL syndromes, no germline or somatic mutations in the succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) complex subunits A, B, C, or D have been found in most tumors and/or patients with CT. Nonetheless, the tumors arising among patients with CT, CSS, or familial PGL share a similar morphology with loss of the SDHB subunit on the protein level. For the current study, we employed massive parallel bisulfite sequencing to evaluate DNA methylation patterns in CpG islands in proximity to the gene loci of all four SDH subunits. For the first time, we report on a recurrent aberrant dense DNA methylation at the gene locus of SDHC in tumors of patients with CT, which was not present in tumors of patients with CSS or PGL, or in sporadic GISTs with KIT mutations. This DNA methylation pattern was correlated to a reduced mRNA expression of SDHC, and concurrent loss of the SDHC subunit on the protein level. Collectively, these data suggest epigenetic inactivation of the SDHC gene locus with functional impairment of the SDH complex as a plausible alternate mechanism of tumorigenesis in CT.

Open access

Laura C Hernández-Ramírez, Ryhem Gam, Nuria Valdés, Maya B Lodish, Nathan Pankratz, Aurelio Balsalobre, Yves Gauthier, Fabio R Faucz, Giampaolo Trivellin, Prashant Chittiboina, John Lane, Denise M Kay, Aggeliki Dimopoulos, Stephan Gaillard, Mario Neou, Jérôme Bertherat, Guillaume Assié, Chiara Villa, James L Mills, Jacques Drouin, and Constantine A Stratakis

The CABLES1 cell cycle regulator participates in the adrenal–pituitary negative feedback, and its expression is reduced in corticotropinomas, pituitary tumors with a largely unexplained genetic basis. We investigated the presence of CABLES1 mutations/copy number variations (CNVs) and their associated clinical, histopathological and molecular features in patients with Cushing’s disease (CD). Samples from 146 pediatric (118 germline DNA only/28 germline and tumor DNA) and 35 adult (tumor DNA) CD patients were screened for CABLES1 mutations. CNVs were assessed in 116 pediatric CD patients (87 germline DNA only/29 germline and tumor DNA). Four potentially pathogenic missense variants in CABLES1 were identified, two in young adults (c.532G > A, p.E178K and c.718C > T, p.L240F) and two in children (c.935G > A, p.G312D and c.1388A > G, and p.D463G) with CD; no CNVs were found. The four variants affected residues within or close to the predicted cyclin-dependent kinase-3 (CDK3)-binding region of the CABLES1 protein and impaired its ability to block cell growth in a mouse corticotropinoma cell line (AtT20/D16v-F2). The four patients had macroadenomas. We provide evidence for a role of CABLES1 as a novel pituitary tumor-predisposing gene. Its function might link two of the main molecular mechanisms altered in corticotropinomas: the cyclin-dependent kinase/cyclin group of cell cycle regulators and the epidermal growth factor receptor signaling pathway. Further studies are needed to assess the prevalence of CABLES1 mutations among patients with other types of pituitary adenomas and to elucidate the pituitary-specific functions of this gene.

Restricted access

Fady Hannah-Shmouni, Annabel Berthon, Fabio R Faucz, Juan Medina Briceno, Andrea Gutierrez Maria, Andrew Demidowich, Mirko Peitzsch, Jimmy Masjkur, Fidéline Bonnet-Serrano, Anna Vaczlavik, Jérôme Bertherat, Martin Reincke, Graeme Eisenhofer, and Constantine A Stratakis

Biochemical characterization of primary bilateral macronodular adrenocortical hyperplasia (PBMAH) by distinct plasma steroid profiles and its putative correlation to disease has not been previously studied. LC-MS/MS–based steroid profiling of 16 plasma steroids was applied to 36 subjects (22 females, 14 males) with PBMAH, 19 subjects (16 females, 3 males) with other forms of adrenal Cushing's syndrome (ACS), and an age and sex-matched control group. Germline ARMC5 sequencing was performed in all PBMAH cases. Compared to controls, PBMAH showed increased plasma 11-deoxycortisol, corticosterone, 11-deoxycorticosterone, 18-hydroxycortisol, and aldosterone, but lower progesterone, DHEA, and DHEA-S with distinct differences in subjects with and without pathogenic variants in ARMC5. Steroids that showed isolated differences included cortisol and 18-oxocortisol with higher (P < 0.05) concentrations in ACS than in controls and aldosterone with higher concentrations in PBMAH when compared to controls. Larger differences in PBMAH than with ACS were most clear for corticosterone, but there were also trends in this direction for 18-hydroxycortisol and aldosterone. Logistic regression analysis indicated four steroids – DHEA, 11-deoxycortisol, 18-oxocortisol, and corticosterone – with the most power for distinguishing the groups. Discriminant analyses with step-wise variable selection indicated correct classification of 95.2% of all subjects of the four groups using a panel of nine steroids; correct classification of subjects with and without germline variants in ARMC5 was achieved in 91.7% of subjects with PBMAH. Subjects with PBMAH show distinctive plasma steroid profiles that may offer a supplementary single-test alternative for screening purposes.

Free access

Fabio R Faucz, Anelia D Horvath, Monalisa F Azevedo, Isaac Levy, Beata Bak, Ying Wang, Paraskevi Xekouki, Eva Szarek, Evgenia Gourgari, Allison D Manning, Rodrigo Bertollo de Alexandre, Emmanouil Saloustros, Giampaolo Trivellin, Maya Lodish, Paul Hofman, Yvonne C Anderson, Ian Holdaway, Edward Oldfield, Prashant Chittiboina, Maria Nesterova, Nienke R Biermasz, Jan M Wit, Daniel J Bernard, and Constantine A Stratakis

IGSF1 is a membrane glycoprotein highly expressed in the anterior pituitary. Pathogenic mutations in the IGSF1 gene (on Xq26.2) are associated with X-linked central hypothyroidism and testicular enlargement in males. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that IGSF1 is involved in the development of pituitary tumors, especially those that produce growth hormone (GH). IGSF1 was sequenced in 21 patients with gigantism or acromegaly and 92 healthy individuals. Expression studies with a candidate pathogenic IGSF1 variant were carried out in transfected cells and immunohistochemistry for IGSF1 was performed in the sections of GH-producing adenomas, familial somatomammotroph hyperplasia, and in normal pituitary. We identified the sequence variant p.N604T, which in silico analysis suggested could affect IGSF1 function, in two male patients and one female with somatomammotroph hyperplasia from the same family. Of 60 female controls, two carried the same variant and seven were heterozygous for other variants. Immunohistochemistry showed increased IGSF1 staining in the GH-producing tumor from the patient with the IGSF1 p.N604T variant compared with a GH-producing adenoma from a patient negative for any IGSF1 variants and with normal control pituitary tissue. The IGSF1 gene appears polymorphic in the general population. A potentially pathogenic variant identified in the germline of three patients with gigantism from the same family (segregating with the disease) was also detected in two healthy female controls. Variations in IGSF1 expression in pituitary tissue in patients with or without IGSF1 germline mutations point to the need for further studies of IGSF1 action in pituitary adenoma formation.

Free access

Amit Tirosh, Ahmed Hamimi, Fabio Faucz, Genya Aharon-Hananel, Phaedon D Zavras, Belen Bonella, Adi Auerbach, David Gillis, Charalampos Lyssikatos, Elena Belyavskaya, Constantine A Stratakis, and Ahmed M Gharib

This study aimed to evaluate liver involvement in patients with Carney complex (CNC) based on a large cohort and to analyze any germline PRKAR1A genotype–phenotype association of liver disease. The study included 83 patients with CNC, followed between 1995 and 2018 at a tertiary research center. We reviewed liver images, recorded types and number of lesions and analyzed per genotype: all patients were sequenced for the PRKAR1A gene. A total of 29/83 patients (24.0%) had liver radiological findings. Patients with liver lesion had a significantly higher rate of pathogenic variants detected in the PRKAR1A gene (72.4 vs 38.9%, P = 0.005, respectively). Patients with a pathogenic variant detected on germline PRKAR1A analysis had a higher risk for having a liver lesion compared with patients with wild-type (WT) PRKAR1A alleles (21/42 (50.0%) vs 8/41 (19.5%), respectively, P = 0.004). Among patients with liver lesions, those with a nonsense PRKAR1A pathogenic-variant had more liver lesions (7/7) than among those with other pathogenic-variant types (8/22, P = 0.001). In multivariable analysis, detection of liver lesion(s) was associated with an odds ratio of 5.2 for cardiac myxomas (95% CI 1.55–17.49, P = 0.008). In conclusion, patients with CNC, particularly with a PRKAR1A pathogenic variant, have a higher rate of liver lesions. Additionally, liver lesions are associated with a high risk for cardiac myxomas in this population.