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Paraskevi Xekouki and Constantine A Stratakis

Succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) or mitochondrial complex II is a multimeric enzyme that is bound to the inner membrane of mitochondria and has a dual role as it serves both as a critical step of the tricarboxylic acid or Krebs cycle and as a member of the respiratory chain that transfers electrons directly to the ubiquinone pool. Mutations in SDH subunits have been implicated in the formation of familial paragangliomas (PGLs) and/or pheochromocytomas (PHEOs) and in Carney–Stratakis syndrome. More recently, SDH defects were associated with predisposition to a Cowden disease phenotype, renal, and thyroid cancer. We recently described a kindred with the coexistence of familial PGLs and an aggressive GH-secreting pituitary adenoma, harboring an SDHD mutation. The pituitary tumor showed loss of heterozygosity at the SDHD locus, indicating the possibility that SDHD's loss was causatively linked to the development of the neoplasm. In total, 29 cases of pituitary adenomas presenting in association with PHEOs and/or extra-adrenal PGLs have been reported in the literature since 1952. Although a number of other genetic defects are possible in these cases, we speculate that the association of PHEOs and/or PGLs with pituitary tumors is a new syndromic association and a novel phenotype for SDH defects.

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Maya B Lodish and Constantine A Stratakis

Targeted therapy in oncology consists of drugs that specifically interfere with abnormal signaling pathways that are dysregulated in cancer cells. Tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) take advantage of unique oncogenes that are activated in certain types of cancer, and also target common mechanisms of growth, invasion, metastasis, and angiogenesis. However, many kinase inhibitors for cancer therapy are somewhat nonselective, and most have additional mechanisms of action at the cellular level, which are not completely understood. The use of these agents has increased our knowledge of important side effects, of which the practicing clinician must be aware. Recently, proposed endocrine-related side effects of these agents include alterations in thyroid function, bone metabolism, linear growth, gonadal function, fetal development, and glucose metabolism, and adrenal function. This review summarizes the most recent data on the endocrine side effects of TKIs.

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Rami Alrezk, Fady Hannah-Shmouni, and Constantine A Stratakis

Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) refers to a group of autosomal dominant disorders with generally high penetrance that lead to the development of a wide spectrum of endocrine and non-endocrine manifestations. The most frequent among these conditions is MEN type 1 (MEN1), which is caused by germline heterozygous loss-of-function mutations in the tumor suppressor gene MEN1. MEN1 is characterized by primary hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) and functional or nonfunctional pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and pituitary adenomas. Approximately 10% of patients with familial or sporadic MEN1-like phenotype do not have MEN1 mutations or deletions. A novel MEN syndrome was discovered, initially in rats (MENX), and later in humans (MEN4), which is caused by germline mutations in the putative tumor suppressor CDKN1B. The most common phenotype of the 19 established cases of MEN4 that have been described to date is PHPT followed by pituitary adenomas. Recently, somatic or germline mutations in CDKN1B were also identified in patients with sporadic PHPT, small intestinal neuroendocrine tumors, lymphoma and breast cancer, demonstrating a novel role for CDKN1B as a tumor susceptibility gene for other neoplasms. In this review, we report on the genetic characterization and clinical features of MEN4.

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Catherine Goudie, Fady Hannah-Shmouni, Mahmure Kavak, Constantine A Stratakis, and William D Foulkes

As medicine is poised to be transformed by incorporating genetic data in its daily practice, it is essential that clinicians familiarise themselves with the information that is now available from more than 50 years of genetic discoveries that continue unabated and increase by the day. Endocrinology has always stood at the forefront of what is called today ‘precision medicine’: genetic disorders of the pituitary and the adrenal glands were among the first to be molecularly elucidated in the 1980s. The discovery of two endocrine-related genes, GNAS and RET, both identified in the late 1980s, contributed greatly in the understanding of cancer and its progression. The use of RET mutation testing for the management of medullary thyroid cancer was among the first and one of most successful applications of genetics in informing clinical decisions in an individualised manner, in this case by preventing cancer or guiding the choice of tyrosine kinase inhibitors in cancer treatment. New information emerges every day in the genetics or system biology of endocrine disorders. This review goes over most of these discoveries and the known endocrine tumour syndromes. We cover key genetic developments for each disease and provide information that can be used by the clinician in daily practice.

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Samuel M O'Toole, Judit Dénes, Mercedes Robledo, Constantine A Stratakis, and Márta Korbonits

The combination of pituitary adenomas (PA) and phaeochromocytomas (phaeo) or paragangliomas (PGL) is a rare event. Although these endocrine tumours may occur together by coincidence, there is mounting evidence that, in at least some cases, classical phaeo/PGL-predisposing genes may also play a role in pituitary tumorigenesis. A new condition that we termed ‘3Pas’ for the association of PA with phaeo and/or PGL was recently described in patients with succinate dehydrogenase mutations and PAs. It should also be noted that the classical tumour suppressor gene, MEN1 that is the archetype of the PA-predisposing genes, is also rarely associated with phaeos in both mice and humans with MEN1 defects. In this report, we review the data leading to the discovery of 3PAs, other associations linking PAs with phaeos and/or PGLs, and the corresponding clinical and molecular genetics.

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Kiran Nadella, Fabio R Faucz, and Constantine A Stratakis

Protein kinase A (PKA) regulatory subunit type 1A (PRKAR1A) defects lead to primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD). The KIT protooncogene (c-KIT) is not known to be expressed in the normal adrenal cortex (AC). In this study, we investigated the expression of c-KIT and its ligand, stem cell factor (SCF), in PPNAD and other cortisol-producing tumors of the adrenal cortex. mRNA and protein expression, by qRT-PCR, immunohistochemistry (IHC) and immunoblotting (IB), respectively, were studied. We then tested c-KIT and SCF responses to PRKAR1A introduction and PKA stimulation in adrenocortical cell lines CAR47 and H295R, which were also treated with the KIT inhibitor, imatinib mesylate (IM). Mice xenografted with H295R cells were treated with IM. There was increased c-KIT mRNA expression in PPNAD; IHC showed KIT and SCF immunoreactivity within certain nodular areas in PPNAD. IB data was consistent with IHC and mRNA data. PRKAR1A-deficient CAR47 cells expressed c-KIT; this was enhanced by forskolin and lowered by PRKAR1A reintroduction. Knockdown of PKA’s catalytic subunit (PRKACA) by siRNA reduced c-KIT levels. Treatment of the CAR47 cells with IM resulted in reduced cell viability, growth arrest, and apoptosis. Treatment with IM of mice xenografted with H295 cells inhibited further tumor growth. We conclude that c-KIT is expressed in PPNAD, an expression that appears to be dependent on PRKAR1A and/or PKA activity. In a human adrenocortical cell line and its xenografts in mice, c-KIT inhibition decreased growth, suggesting that c-KIT inhibitors may be a reasonable alternative therapy to be tested in PPNAD, when other treatments are not optimal.

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Giampaolo Trivellin, Fabio R Faucz, Adrian F Daly, Albert Beckers, and Constantine A Stratakis

We recently described X-linked acrogigantism (X-LAG) in sporadic cases of infantile gigantism and a few familial cases of pituitary gigantism in the context of the disorder known as familial isolated pituitary adenomas. X-LAG cases with early onset gigantism (in infants or toddlers) shared copy number gains (CNG) of the distal long arm of chromosome X (Xq26.3). In all patients described to date with Xq26.3 CNG and acro-gigantism, the only coding gene sequence shared by all chromosomal defects was that of GPR101. GPR101 is a class A, rhodopsin-like orphan guanine nucleotide-binding protein (G protein)-coupled receptor (GPCR) with no known endogenous ligand. We review what is known about GPR101, specifically its expression profile in human and animal models, the evidence supporting causation of X-LAG and possibly other roles, including its function in growth, puberty and appetite regulation, as well as efforts to identify putative ligands.

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Evgenia Gourgari, Maya Lodish, Meg Keil, Robert Wesley, Suvimol Hill, Paraskevi Xekouki, Charalampos Lyssikatos, Elena Belyavskaya, Sierra Maria De La Luz, and Constantine A Stratakis

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Sisi Liu, Emmanouil Saloustros, Annabel Berthon, Matthew F Starost, Isabelle Sahut-Barnola, Paraskevi Salpea, Eva Szarek, Fabio R Faucz, Antoine Martinez, and Constantine A Stratakis

Primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD), whether in the context of Carney complex (CNC) or isolated, leads to ACTH-independent Cushing's syndrome (CS). CNC and PPNAD are caused typically by inactivating mutations of PRKAR1A, a gene coding for the type 1a regulatory subunit (R1α) of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (PKA). Mice lacking Prkar1a, specifically in the adrenal cortex (AdKO) developed CS caused by bilateral adrenal hyperplasia (BAH), which is formed from the abnormal proliferation of fetal-like adrenocortical cells. Celecoxib is a cyclooxygenase 2 (COX2) inhibitor. In bone, Prkar1a inhibition is associated with COX2 activation and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production that, in turn, activates proliferation of bone stromal cells. We hypothesized that COX2 inhibition may have an effect in PPNAD. In vitro treatment of human cell lines, including one from a patient with PPNAD, with celecoxib resulted in decreased cell viability. We then treated AdKO and control mice with 1500 mg/kg celecoxib or vehicle. Celecoxib treatment led to decreased PGE2 and corticosterone levels, reduced proliferation and increased apoptosis of adrenocortical cells, and decreased steroidogenic gene expression. We conclude that, in vitro and in vivo, celecoxib led to decreased steroidogenesis. In a mouse model of PPNAD, celecoxib caused histological changes that, at least in part, reversed BAH and this was associated with a reduction of corticosterone levels.