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Dimitra A Vassiliadi and Stylianos Tsagarakis

Primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (PBMAH) is a highly heterogeneous entity. The incidental identification of an increasing number of cases has shifted its clinical expression from the rarely encountered severe forms, regarding both cortisol excess and adrenal enlargement, to mild forms of asymptomatic or oligosymptomatic cases with less impressive imaging phenotypes. Activation of cAMP/PKA pathway, either due to alterations of the different downstream signaling pathways or through aberrantly expressed G-protein-coupled receptors, relates to both cortisol secretion and adrenal growth. Germline ARMC5 mutations are a frequent genetic defect. The diagnostic approach consists of both imaging and hormonal characterization. Imaging characterization should be done separately for each lesion. Endocrine evaluation in cases with clinically overt Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is similar to that applied for all forms of CS. In incidentally detected PBMAH, hormonal evaluation includes testing for primary aldosteronism, pheochromocytoma and evaluation for autonomous cortisol secretion, using the 1 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test. Midnight cortisol or 24-h urinary free cortisol may aid in establishing the degree of cortisol excess. In patients with hypercortisolism, ACTH levels should be measured in order to establish ACTH independency. At variance with other forms of CS, PBMAH may be characterized by a distinct pattern of inefficient steroidogenesis. The appropriate management of PBMAH remains controversial. Bilateral adrenalectomy results in lifetime steroid dependency and is better reserved only for patients with severe CS. Unilateral adrenalectomy might be considered in selected patients. In cases where the regulation of cortisol secretion is mediated by aberrant receptors there is some potential for medical therapy.

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Carole Guerin, David Taieb, Giorgio Treglia, Thierry Brue, André Lacroix, Frederic Sebag, and Frederic Castinetti

Therapeutic options available for the treatment of Cushing's syndrome (CS) have expanded over the last 5 years. For instance, the efficient management of severe hypercortisolism using a combination of fast-acting steroidogenesis inhibitors has been reported. Recent publications on the long-term efficacy of drugs or radiation techniques have also demonstrated low toxicity. These data should encourage endocrinologists to reconsider the place of bilateral adrenalectomy in patients with ACTH-dependent aetiologies of CS; similarly, the indication of bilateral adrenalectomy is reassessed in primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia. The objective of this review is to compare the efficacy and side effects of the various therapeutic options of hypercortisolism with those of bilateral adrenalectomy, in order to better define its indications in the 21st century.

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Isobel C Mouat, Kei Omata, Andrew S McDaniel, Namita G Hattangady, Debnita Talapatra, Andi K Cani, Daniel H Hovelson, Scott A Tomlins, William E Rainey, Gary D Hammer, Thomas J Giordano, and Tobias Else

Several somatic mutations specific to aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs) have been described. A small proportion of adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs) are associated with hyperaldosteronism, either primary aldosteronism or hyperreninemic hyperaldosteronism. However, it is unknown whether they harbor mutations of the same spectrum as APAs. The objective of this study is to describe the clinical phenotype and molecular genotype of ACCs with hyperaldosteronism, particularly the analysis for common APA-associated genetic changes. Patients were identified by retrospective chart review at a specialized referral center and by positive staining for CYP11B2 of tissue microarrays. Twenty-five patients with ACC and hyperaldosteronism were initially identified by retrospective chart review, and tissue for further analysis was available on 13 tumors. Seven patients were identified by positive staining for CYP11B2 in a tissue microarray, of which two were already identified in the initial chart review. Therefore, a total number of 18 patients with a diagnosis of ACC and features of either primary aldosteronism or hyperreninemic hyperaldosteronism were therefore included in the final study. Mutational status for a select list of oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes and genes known to carry mutations in APAs were analyzed by next-generation sequencing. Review of clinical data suggested autonomous aldosterone production in the majority of cases, while for some cases, hyperreninemic hyperaldosteronism was the more likely mechanism. The mutational landscape of ACCs associated with hyperaldosteronism was not different from ACCs with a different hormonal phenotype. None of the ACCs harbored mutations of known APA-associated genes, suggesting an alternative mechanism conferring aldosterone production.

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Aristides Lytras and George Tolis

In the context of multiple neuroendocrine tumor syndromes, reproductive abnormalities may occur via a number of different mechanisms, such as hyperprolactinemia, increased GH/IGF-1 levels, hypogonadotropic hypogonadism, hypercortisolism, hyperandrogenism, hyperthyroidism, gonadotropin hypersecretion, as well as, tumorigenesis or functional disturbances in gonads or other reproductive organs. Precocious puberty and/or male feminization is a feature of McCune–Albright syndrome (MAS), neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1), Carney complex (CNC), and Peutz–Jeghers syndrome (PJS), while sperm maturation and ovulation defects have been described in MAS and CNC. Although tumorigenesis of reproductive organs due to a multiple neuroendocrine tumor syndrome is very rare, certain lesions are characteristic and very unusual in the general population. Awareness leading to their recognition is important especially when other endocrine abnormalities coexist, as occasionally they may even be the first manifestation of a syndrome. Lesions such as certain types of ovarian cysts (MAS, CNC), pseudogynecomastia due to neurofibromas of the nipple–areola area (NF1), breast disease (CNC and Cowden disease (CD)), cysts and ‘hypernephroid’ tumors of the epididymis or bilateral papillary cystadenomas (mesosalpinx cysts) and endometrioid cystadenomas of the broad ligament (von Hippel–Lindau disease), testicular Sertoli calcifying tumors (CNC, PJS) monolateral or bilateral macroochidism and microlithiasis (MAS) may offer diagnostic clues. In addition, multiple neuroendocrine tumor syndromes may be complicated by reproductive malignancies including ovarian cancer in CNC, breast and endometrial cancer in CD, breast malignancies in NF1, and malignant sex-cord stromal tumors in PJS.

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Asterios Karagiannis, Konstantinos Tziomalos, Anna I Kakafika, Vasilios G Athyros, Faidon Harsoulis, and Dimitri P Mikhailidis

Primary aldosteronism (PA) and, in particular, its two commonest subtypes (i.e. idiopathic hyperaldosteronism (IHA) and aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA)) have been recognized as the most common cause of secondary hypertension. While ‘conservative’ medical treatment with aldosterone receptor antagonists is the therapeutic approach of choice in controlling blood pressure in patients with PA due to IHA, the more invasive (laparoscopic) adrenalectomy seems to be the most suitable therapy for patients with APA. In this review, we focus on the medical approach for the management of APA in cases where surgical excision of the adrenal is not possible.

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Ravi Kumar Dutta, Peter Söderkvist, and Oliver Gimm

Hypertension is a common medical condition and affects approximately 20% of the population in developed countries. Primary aldosteronism is the most common form of secondary hypertension and affects 8–13% of patients with hypertension. The two most common causes of primary aldosteronism are aldosterone-producing adenoma and bilateral adrenal hyperplasia. Familial hyperaldosteronism types I, II and III are the known genetic syndromes, in which both adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of aldosterone. However, only a minority of patients with primary aldosteronism have one of these syndromes. Several novel susceptibility genes have been found to be mutated in aldosterone-producing adenomas: KCNJ5, ATP1A1, ATP2B3, CTNNB1, CACNA1D, CACNA1H and ARMC5. This review describes the genes currently known to be responsible for primary aldosteronism, discusses the origin of aldosterone-producing adenomas and considers the future clinical implications based on these novel insights.

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Stephen J Marx

Five syndromes share predominantly hyperplastic glands with a primary excess of hormones: neonatal severe primary hyperparathyroidism, from homozygous mutated CASR, begins severely in utero; congenital non-autoimmune thyrotoxicosis, from mutated TSHR, varies from severe with fetal onset to mild with adult onset; familial male-limited precocious puberty, from mutated LHR, expresses testosterone oversecretion in young boys; hereditary ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, from mutated FSHR, expresses symptomatic systemic vascular permeabilities during pregnancy; and familial hyperaldosteronism type IIIA, from mutated KCNJ5, presents in young children with hypertension and hypokalemia. The grouping of these five syndromes highlights predominant hyperplasia as a stable tissue endpoint and as their tissue stage for all of the hormone excess. Comparisons were made among this and two other groups of syndromes, forming a continuum of gland staging: predominant oversecretions express little or no hyperplasia; predominant hyperplasias express little or no neoplasia; and predominant neoplasias express nodules, adenomas, or cancers. Hyperplasias may progress (5 of 5) to neoplastic stages while predominant oversecretions rarely do (1 of 6; frequencies differ P<0.02). Hyperplasias do not show tumor multiplicity (0 of 5) unlike neoplasias that do (13 of 19; P<0.02). Hyperplasias express mutation of a plasma membrane-bound sensor (5 of 5), while neoplasias rarely do (3 of 14; P<0.002). In conclusion, the multiple distinguishing themes within the hyperplasias establish a robust pathophysiology. It has the shared and novel feature of mutant sensors in the plasma membrane, suggesting that these are major contributors to hyperplasia.

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Peter M van Koetsveld, Giovanni Vitale, Richard A Feelders, Marlijn Waaijers, Diana M Sprij-Mooij, Ronald R de Krijger, Ernst-Jan M Speel, Johannes Hofland, Steven W J Lamberts, Wouter W de Herder, and Leo J Hofland

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) is an aggressive tumor with very poor prognosis. Novel medical treatment opportunities are required. We investigated the effects of interferon-β (IFN-β), alone or in combination with mitotane, on cell growth and cortisol secretion in primary cultures of 13 human ACCs, three adrenal hyperplasias, three adrenal adenomas, and in two ACC cell lines. Moreover, the interrelationship between the effects of IGF2 and IFN-β was evaluated. Mitotane inhibited cell total DNA content/well (representing cell number) in 7/11 (IC50: 38±9.2 μM) and cortisol secretion in 5/5 ACC cultures (IC50: 4.5±0.1 μM). IFN-β reduced cell number in 10/11 (IC50: 83±18 IU/ml) and cortisol secretion in 5/5 ACC cultures (IC50: 7.3±1.5 IU/ml). The effect of IFN-β on cell number included the induction of apoptosis. IFN-β strongly inhibited mRNA expression of STAR, CYP11A1, CYP17A1, and CYP11B1. Mitotane and IFN-β induced an additive inhibitory effect on cell number and cortisol secretion. IGF2 (10 nM) inhibited apoptosis and increased cell number and cortisol secretion. These effects were counteracted by IFN-β treatment. Finally, IFN-β inhibited IGF2 secretion and mRNA expression. In conclusion, IFN-β is a potent inhibitor of ACC cell growth in human primary ACC cultures, partially mediated by an inhibition of the effects of IGF2, as well as its production. The increased sensitivity of ACC cells to mitotane induced by treatment with IFN-β may open the opportunity for combined treatment regimens with lower mitotane doses. The inhibition of the expression of steroidogenic enzymes by IFN-β is a novel mechanism that may explain its inhibitory effect on cortisol production.

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E Louiset, K Isvi, J M Gasc, C Duparc, B Cauliez, A Laquerrière, J M Kuhn, and H Lefebvre

Abnormal expression of membrane receptors has been previously described in benign adrenocortical neoplasms causing Cushing's syndrome. In particular, we have observed that, in some adreno corticotropic hormone (ACTH)-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia tissues, cortisol secretion is controlled by ectopic serotonin7 (5-HT7) receptors. The objective of the present study was to investigate in vitro the effect of serotonin (5-hydroxy tryptamine; 5-HT) on cortisol and renin production by a left adrenocortical carcinoma removed from a 48-year-old female patient with severe Cushing's syndrome and elevated plasma renin levels. Tumor explants were obtained at surgery and processed for immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization and cell culture studies. 5-HT-like immunoreactivity was observed in mast cells and steroidogenic cells disseminated in the tissue. 5-HT stimulated cortisol release by cultured cells. The stimulatory effect of 5-HT on cortisol secretion was suppressed by the 5-HT7 receptor antagonist SB269970. In addition, immunohistochemistry showed the occurrence of 5-HT7 receptor-like immunoreactivity in carcinoma cells. mRNAs encoding renin as well as renin-like immunoreactivity were detected in endothelial and tumor cells. Cell incubation studies revealed that the adrenocortical tissue also released renin. Renin production was inhibited by 5-HT but was not influenced by ACTH and angiotensin II (Ang II). In conclusion, the present report provides the first demonstration of ectopic serotonin receptors, i.e. 5-HT7 receptors, in an adrenocortical carcinoma. Our results also indicate that 5-HT can influence the secretory activity of malignant adrenocortical tumors in an autocrine/paracrine manner. The effects of 5-HT on adrenocortical tumor cells included a paradoxical inhibitory action on renin production and a stimulatory action on cortisol secretion involving 5-HT7 receptors.

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Paraskevi Xekouki, Michael M Hatch, Lin Lin, De Alexandre Rodrigo, Monalisa Azevedo, Maria de la Luz Sierra, Isaac Levy, Emmanouil Saloustros, Andreas Moraitis, Anelia Horvath, E Kebebew, Dax A Hoffman, and Constantine A Stratakis

KCNJ5 mutations were recently described in primary hyperaldosteronism (PH or Conn's syndrome). The frequency of these mutations in PH and the way KCNJ5 defects cause disease remain unknown. A total of 53 patients with PH have been seen at the National Institutes of Health over the last 12 years. Their peripheral and tumor DNAs (the latter from 16 that were operated) were screened for KCNJ5 mutations; functional studies on the identified defects were performed after transient transfection. Only two mutations were identified, and both in the tumor DNA only. There were no germline sequencing defects in any of the patients except for known synonymous variants of the KCNJ5 gene. One mutation was the previously described c.G451C alteration; the other was a novel one in the same codon: c.G451A; both lead to the same amino acid substitution (G151R) in the KCNJ5 protein. Functional studies confirmed previous findings that both mutations caused loss of channel selectivity and a positive shift in the reversal potential. In conclusion, the KCNJ5 protein was strongly expressed in the zona glomerulosa of normal adrenal glands but showed variable expression in the aldosterone-producing adenomas with and without mutation. The rate of KCNJ5 mutations among patients with PH and/or their tumors is substantially lower than what was previously reported. The G151R amino acid substitution appears to be the most frequent one so far detected in PH, despite additional nucleotide changes. The mutation causes loss of this potassium channel's selectivity and may assist in the design of new therapies for PH.