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Dorota Dworakowska and Ashley B Grossman

Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is an autosomal dominant multisystem disorder characterised by the development of multiple hamartomas in numerous organs. It is caused by mutations of two tumour suppressor genes, TSC1 on chromosome 9q34 and TSC2 on chromosome 16p13.3, which encode for hamartin and tuberin respectively. The interaction between these two proteins, the tuberin–hamartin complex, has been shown to be critical to multiple intracellular signalling pathways, especially those controlling cell growth and proliferation. TSC may affect skin, central nervous system, kidneys, heart, eyes, blood vessels, lung, bone and gastrointestinal tract. Small series and case reports have documented that in tuberous sclerosis patients many endocrine system alterations might occur, affecting the function of the pituitary, parathyroid and other neuroendocrine tissue. There have been scattered reports of the involvement of such tissue in the pathological process of TSC, but no systematic review as to whether this is a true association. We have therefore systematically assessed all available published literature in this area. We conclude that there may be an association with pituitary and parathyroid tumours, and two recent descriptions of Cushing's disease are especially intriguing. However, the evidence seems more firm in the case of islet cell tumours, particularly insulinomas. As these latter may cause changes in mental state that may be confused with the cerebral manifestations of TSC per se, it is particularly important for physicians working with these patients to be aware of the putative and indeed likely association.

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A Perren, S Schmid, T Locher, P Saremaslani, C Bonvin, P U Heitz and P Komminoth

The tumorigenesis of sporadic endocrine tumors is still not fully understood. Activating point mutations of the serine/threonine kinase gene BRAF located on 7q34 are found in a wide range of malignancies, with the highest frequency (66%) occurring in malignant melanomas. Melanomas are tumors of neural-crest-derived cells as are medullary thyroid carcinomas, pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas. BRAF has not been examined in endocrine tumors of the diffuse neuroendocrine system or of neural-crest-derived cells.

We examined 130 endocrine tumors of the pancreas, parathyroid gland, adrenal medulla, paraganglia, lung and gastrointestinal tract as well as follicular and c-cell-derived thyroid tumors. We found a high rate of V559E mutations in papillary thyroid carcinomas (47%), one V599E mutation in a well-differentiated gastric endocrine carcinoma (malignant carcinoid), but no activating BRAF mutations in all other endocrine tumors examined. These results point towards different pathways in tumorigenesis of endocrine tumors of various localizations and only rare involvement of the MAP kinase (MAPK) pathway in a subset of malignant neuroendocrine tumors.

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A L Ogilvy-Stuart and S M Shalet


A child with an endocrine tumour may present clinically with the effects of a mass lesion, a hormone excess state or hormone deficiencies. Medical awareness of a hormone deficiency tends to lag behind that of a mass lesion. For example, the diagnosis of a tumour in the hypothalamic-pituitary region such as a craniopharyngioma is nearly always precipitated by severe persistent headache or visual loss, even though short stature and pituitary hormone deficiencies are usually already present.

Production of excess hormone by a tumour may modify growth and sexual development in a number of ways including, precocious or delayed pubertal development, virilization, feminization, gynaecomastia, gigantism and Cushing's syndrome.

Fortunately, endocrine tumours, with the exception of neuroblastoma, a tumour of the sympathetic nervous system, are uncommon in childhood. Thus pituitary tumours account for only 1% of all intracranial tumours in children but 10%18% in adults.



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Takako Araki, Ning-Ai Liu, Yukiko Tone, Daniel Cuevas-Ramos, Roy Heltsley, Masahide Tone and Shlomo Melmed

Cushing’s syndrome is caused by excessive adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion derived from pituitary corticotroph tumors (Cushing disease) or from non-pituitary tumors (ectopic Cushing’s syndrome). Hypercortisolemic features of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome are severe, and no definitive treatment for paraneoplastic ACTH excess is available. We aimed to identify subcellular therapeutic targets by elucidating transcriptional regulation of the human ACTH precursor POMC (proopiomelanocortin) and ACTH production in non-pituitary tumor cells and in cell lines derived from patients with ectopic Cushing’s syndrome. We show that ectopic hPOMC transcription proceeds independently of pituitary-specific Tpit/Pitx1 and demonstrate a novel E2F1-mediated transcriptional mechanism regulating hPOMC. We identify an E2F1 cluster binding to the proximal hPOMC promoter region (−42 to +68), with DNA-binding activity determined by the phosphorylation at Ser-337. hPOMC mRNA expression in cancer cells was upregulated (up to 40-fold) by the co-expression of E2F1 and its heterodimer partner DP1. Direct and indirect inhibitors of E2F1 activity suppressed hPOMC gene expression and ACTH by modifying E2F1 DNA-binding activity in ectopic Cushing’s cell lines and primary tumor cells, and also suppressed paraneoplastic ACTH and cortisol levels in xenografted mice. E2F1-mediated hPOMC transcription is a potential target for suppressing ACTH production in ectopic Cushing’s syndrome.

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Thomas G Papathomas, Lindsey Oudijk, Ellen C Zwarthoff, Edward Post, Floor A Duijkers, Max M van Noesel, Leo J Hofland, Patrick J Pollard, Eamonn R Maher, David F Restuccia, Richard A Feelders, Gaston J H Franssen, Henri J Timmers, Stefan Sleijfer, Wouter W de Herder, Ronald R de Krijger, Winand N M Dinjens and Esther Korpershoek

Hotspot mutations in the promoter of the telomerase reverse transcriptase (TERT) gene have been recently reported in human cancers and proposed as a novel mechanism of telomerase activation. To explore TERT promoter mutations in tumors originating from the adrenal gland and extra-adrenal paraganglia, a set of 253 tumors (38 adrenocortical carcinomas (ACCs), 127 pheochromocytomas (PCCs), 18 extra-adrenal paragangliomas (ea PGLs), 37 head and neck PGLs (HN PGLs), and 33 peripheral neuroblastic tumors) was selected along with 16 human neuroblastoma (NBL) and two ACC cell lines to assess TERT promoter mutations by the Sanger sequencing method. All mutations detected were confirmed by a SNaPshot assay. Additionally, 36 gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GISTs) were added to explore an association between TERT promoter mutations and SDH deficiency. TERT promoter mutations were found in seven out of 289 tumors and in three out of 18 human cell lines; four C228T mutations in 38 ACCs (10.5%), two C228T mutations in 18 ea PGLs (11.1%), one C250T mutation in 36 GISTs (2.8%), and three C228T mutations in 16 human NBL cell lines (18.75%). No mutation was detected in PCCs, HN PGLs, neuroblastic tumors as well as ACC cell lines. TERT promoter mutations preferentially occurred in a SDH-deficient setting (P=0.01) being present in three out of 47 (6.4%) SDH-deficient tumors vs zero out of 171 (0%) SDH-intact tumors. We conclude that TERT promoter mutations occur in ACCs and ea PGLs. In addition, preliminary evidence indicates a potential association with the acquisition of TERT promoter mutations in SDH-deficient tumors.

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V H M Tsang, T Dwight, D E Benn, G Y Meyer-Rochow, A J Gill, M Sywak, S Sidhu, D Veivers, C M Sue, B G Robinson, R J Clifton-Bligh and N R Parker

miR-210 is a key regulator of response to hypoxia. Pheochromocytomas (PCs) and paragangliomas (PGLs) with germline SDHx or VHL mutations have pseudohypoxic gene expression signatures. We hypothesised that PC/PGLs containing SDHx or VHL mutations, and succinate dehydrogenase (SDH)-deficient gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GISTs), would overexpress miR-210 relative to non-SDH or -VHL-mutated counterparts. miR-210 was analysed by quantitative PCR in i) 39 PC/PGLs, according to genotype (one SDHA, five SDHB, seven VHL, three NF1, seven RET, 15 sporadic, one unknown) and pathology (18 benign, eight atypical, 11 malignant, two unknown); ii) 18 GISTs, according to SDHB immunoreactivity (nine SDH-deficient and nine SDH-proficient) and iii) two novel SDHB-mutant neurosphere cell lines. miR-210 was higher in SDHx- or VHL-mutated PC/PGLs (7.6-fold) compared with tumours without SDHx or VHL mutations (P=0.0016). miR-210 was higher in malignant than in unequivocally benign PC/PGLs (P=0.05), but significance was lost when benign and atypical tumours were combined (P=0.08). In multivariate analysis, elevated miR-210 was significantly associated with SDHx or VHL mutation, but not with malignancy. In GISTs, miR-210 was higher in SDH-deficient (median 2.58) compared with SDH-proficient tumours (median 0.60; P=0.0078). miR-210 was higher in patient-derived neurosphere cell lines containing SDHB mutations (6.5-fold increase) compared with normal controls, in normoxic conditions (P<0.01). Furthermore, siRNA-knockdown of SDHB in HEK293 cells increased miR-210 by 2.7-fold (P=0.001) under normoxia. Overall, our results suggest that SDH deficiency in PC, PGL and GISTs induces miR-210 expression and substantiates the role of aberrant hypoxic-type cellular responses in the development of these tumours.

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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.

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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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Y de Keyzer, D Vieau, A Picon and X Bertagna

Cushing's syndrome refers to the manifestations induced by chronic exposure to glucocorticoid excess and may result from various causes that are all associated with tumors. The most frequent one, that which was first recognized by Harvey Cushing (Cushing 1932) – and therefore called Cushing's disease – is due to adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) hypersecretion by a pituitary corticotrope adenoma; the ectopic ACTH syndrome is another, much rarer (∼5-10%) one, caused by a variety of so-called ACTH-secreting non-pituitary tumors; finally, approximately 30% of Cushing's syndromes are ACTH-non-dependent, caused by primary adrenocortical tumors, most often unilateral and either benign or malignant.

The first case of ectopic ACTH syndrome was probably reported by Brown (1928) who described the case of a bearded woman with diabetes. At that time the author had no idea that ACTH existed. The discovery of ACTH, the development of an ACTH bioassay, and the pioneering work of Liddle's group eventually led

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Jenny Welander, Adam Andreasson, Michael Brauckhoff, Martin Bäckdahl, Catharina Larsson, Oliver Gimm and Peter Söderkvist

Pheochromocytomas are neuroendocrine tumors arising from the adrenal medulla. While heritable mutations are frequently described, less is known about the genetics of sporadic pheochromocytoma. Mutations in genes involved in the cellular hypoxia response have been identified in tumors, and recently EPAS1, encoding HIF2α, has been revealed to be a new gene involved in the pathogenesis of pheochromocytoma and abdominal paraganglioma. The aim of this study was to further characterize EPAS1 alterations in non-familial pheochromocytomas. Tumor DNA from 42 adrenal pheochromocytoma cases with apparently sporadic presentation, without known hereditary mutations in predisposing genes, were analyzed for mutations in EPAS1 by sequencing of exons 9 and 12, which contain the two hydroxylation sites involved in HIF2α degradation, and also exon 2. In addition, the copy number at the EPAS1 locus as well as transcriptome-wide gene expression were studied by DNA and RNA microarray analyses, respectively. We identified six missense EPAS1 mutations, three in exon 9 and three in exon 12, in five of 42 pheochromocytomas (12%). The mutations were both somatic and constitutional, and had no overlap in 11 cases (26%) with somatic mutations in NF1 or RET. One sample had two different EPAS1 mutations, shown by cloning to occur in cis, possibly indicating a novel mechanism of HIF2α stabilization through inactivation of both hydroxylation sites. One of the tumors with an EPAS1 mutation also had a gain in DNA copy number at the EPAS1 locus. All EPAS1-mutated tumors displayed a pseudo-hypoxic gene expression pattern, indicating an oncogenic role of the identified mutations.