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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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Emmanouil Saloustros, Paraskevi Salpea, Matthew Starost, Sissi Liu, Fabio R Faucz, Edra London, Eva Szarek, Woo-Jin Song, Mehboob Hussain and Constantine A Stratakis

Carney complex (CNC) is a rare disease associated with multiple neoplasias, including a predisposition to pancreatic tumors; it is caused most frequently by the inactivation of the PRKAR1A gene, a regulator of the cyclic AMP (cAMP)-dependent kinase (PKA). The method used was to create null alleles of prkar1a in mouse cells expressing pdx1 (Δ-Prkar1a). We found that these mice developed endocrine or mixed endocrine/acinar cell carcinomas with 100% penetrance by the age of 4–5 months. Malignant behavior of the tumors was seen as evidenced by stromal invasion and metastasis to locoregional lymph nodes. Histologically, most tumors exhibited an organoid pattern as seen in the islet-cell tumors. Biochemically, the lesions exhibited high PKA activity, as one would expect from deleting prkar1a. The primary neuroendocrine nature of these tumor cells was confirmed by immunohistochemical staining and electron microscopy, the latter revealing the characteristic granules. Although the Δ-Prkar1a mice developed hypoglycemia after overnight fasting, insulin and glucagon levels in the plasma were normal. Negative immunohistochemical staining for the most commonly produced peptides (insulin, c-peptide, glucagon, gastrin and somatostatin) suggested that these tumors were non-functioning. We hypothesize that the recently identified multipotent pdx1+/insulin− cell in adult pancreas, gives rise to endocrine or mixed endocrine/acinar pancreatic malignancies with complete prkar1a deficiency. In conclusion, this mouse model supports the role of prkar1a as a tumor suppressor gene in the pancreas and points to the PKA pathway as a possible therapeutic target for these lesions.

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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.

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Rodrigo B de Alexandre, Anelia D Horvath, Eva Szarek, Allison D Manning, Leticia F Leal, Fabio Kardauke, Jonathan A Epstein, Dirce M Carraro, Fernando A Soares, Tatiyana V Apanasovich, Constantine A Stratakis and Fabio R Faucz

We hypothesized that mutations that inactivate phosphodiesterase (PDE) activity and lead to increased cAMP and cyclic guanosine monophosphate levels may be associated with prostate cancer (PCa). We sequenced the entire PDE coding sequences in the DNA of 16 biopsy samples from PCa patients. Novel mutations were confirmed in the somatic or germline state by Sanger sequencing. Data were then compared to the 1000 Genome Project. PDE, CREB and pCREB protein expression was also studied in all samples, in both normal and abnormal tissue, by immunofluorescence. We identified three previously described PDE sequence variants that were significantly more frequent in PCa. Four novel sequence variations, one each in the PDE4B, PDE6C, PDE7B and PDE10A genes, respectively, were also found in the PCa samples. Interestingly, PDE10A and PDE4B novel variants that were present in 19 and 6% of the patients were found in the tumor tissue only. In patients carrying PDE defects, there was pCREB accumulation (P<0.001), and an increase of the pCREB:CREB ratio (patients 0.97±0.03; controls 0.52±0.03; P-value <0.001) by immunohistochemical analysis. We conclude that PDE sequence variants may play a role in the predisposition and/or progression to PCa at the germline and/or somatic state respectively.

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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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Anand Pathak, Douglas R Stewart, Fabio R Faucz, Paraskevi Xekouki, Sara Bass, Aurelie Vogt, Xijun Zhang, Joseph Boland, Meredith Yeager, Jennifer T Loud, Katherine L Nathanson, Katherine A McGlynn, Constantine A Stratakis, Mark H Greene and Lisa Mirabello

Germline inactivating mutations of isoform 4 of phosphodiesterase (PDE) 11A (coded by the PDE11A gene) have been associated with familial adrenocortical tumors and familial testicular cancer. Testicular tissue is unique in expressing all four isoforms of PDE11A. In a prior candidate gene study of 94 familial testicular germ cell tumor (TGCT) subjects, we identified a significant association between the presence of functionally abnormal variants in PDE11A and familial TGCT risk. To validate this novel observation, we sequenced the PDE11A coding region in 259 additional TGCT patients (both familial and sporadic) and 363 controls. We identified 55 PDE11A variants: 20 missense, four splice-site, two nonsense, seven synonymous, and 22 intronic. Ten missense variants were novel; nine occurred in transcript variant 4 and one in transcript variant 3. Five rare mutations (p.F258Y, p.G291R, p.V820M, p.R545X, and p.K568R) were present only in cases and were significantly more common in cases vs controls (P=0.0037). The latter two novel variants were functionally characterized and shown to be functionally inactivating, resulting in reduced PDE activity and increased cAMP levels. In further analysis of this cohort, we focused on white participants only to minimize confounding due to population stratification. This study builds upon our prior reports implicating PDE11A variants in familial TGCT, provides the first independent validation of those findings, extends that work to sporadic testicular cancer, demonstrates that these variants are uncommonly but reproducibly associated with TGCT, and refines our understanding regarding which specific inactivating PDE11A variants are most likely to be associated with TGCT risk.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.