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Esther Korpershoek, Claudia K Stobbe, Francien H van Nederveen, Ronald R de Krijger, and Winand N M Dinjens

Pheochromocytomas (PCCs) and extra-adrenal sympathetic paragangliomas (sPGLs) are catecholamine-producing tumors occurring in the context of hereditary tumor syndromes, with known germline mutations, and as sporadic tumors. The pathogenesis of sporadic PCC and sPGL is poorly understood, and little is known about intra-tumoral heterogeneity with respect to molecular aberrations. Since knowledge on intra-tumoral heterogeneity is important for understanding the pathogenesis of these tumors, we investigated 12 benign and 8 malignant PCCs and sPGLs for loss of heterozygosity (LOH) on DNA extracted from different regions of each tumor and from metastases. LOH markers were selected on chromosomal regions frequently deleted in PCC, including 1p, 3q, 3p, and 11p. Benign tumors were found to have less intra-tumoral heterogeneity (overall 8%) than malignant tumors (overall 23%), with the highest frequencies for chromosome 1p36 in the benign tumors (17%) and 1p13 and 3q24 in malignant tumors (both 38%). In addition, differences in LOH patterns were detected between paired primary malignant tumors, and their metastases and different LOH patterns were observed in bilateral PCC of a multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 patient. We demonstrate that malignant PCC and sPGL have more intra-tumoral molecular heterogeneity than benign tumors, which suggests that benign and malignant PCC and sPGL have a different pathogenesis.

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Francien H van Nederveen, Esther Korpershoek, Ronald J deLeeuw, Albert A Verhofstad, Jacques W Lenders, Winand N M Dinjens, Wan L Lam, and Ronald R de Krijger

Pheochromocytomas (PCC) are catecholamine-producing tumors arising from the adrenal medulla that occur either sporadically or in the context of hereditary cancer syndromes, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2), von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL), neurofibromatosis type 1, and the PCC-paraganglioma syndrome. Conventional comparative genomic hybridization studies have shown loss of 1p and 3q in the majority of sporadic and MEN2-related PCC, and 3p and 11p loss in VHL-related PCC. The development of a submegabase tiling resolution array enabled us to perform a genome-wide high-resolution analysis of 36 sporadic benign PCC. The results show that there are two distinct patterns of abnormalities in these sporadic PCC, one consisting of loss of 1p with or without concomitant 3q loss in 20/36 cases (56%), the other characterized by loss of 3p with or without concomitant 11p loss in 11/36 (31%). In addition, we found loss of chromosome 22q at high frequency (35%), as well as the novel finding of high frequency chromosome 21q loss (21%). We conclude that there appear to be two subgroups of benign sporadic PCC, one of which has a pattern of chromosomal abnormalities that is comparable with PCC from patients with MEN2 and the other that is comparable with the PCC that arise in patients with VHL disease. In addition, genes on 21q and 22q might play a more important role in PCC pathogenesis than had been assumed thus far.

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Esther Korpershoek, Bart-Jeroen Petri, Francien H van Nederveen, Winand N M Dinjens, Albert A Verhofstad, Wouter W de Herder, Sonja Schmid, Aurel Perren, Paul Komminoth, and Ronald R de Krijger

Pheochromocytomas (PCCs) are rare tumors that arise from chromaffin tissue in the adrenal medulla, but can also occur in the abdomen outside the adrenals and are then called sympathetic paragangliomas (sPGLs). According to the literature, between 15 and 25% of apparently sporadic adrenal PCC and sPGL are caused by germline mutations in RET, von Hippel–Lindau disease (VHL), succinate dehydrogenase subunit B (SDHB), or subunit D SDHD. However, few studies have addressed the mutationfrequency of these candidate genes in selected subgroups of PCC andsPGL, such as bilateral adrenal PCC or extra-adrenal sPGL, and none have looked at somatic mutations by analyzing tumor tissue. Therefore, we have investigated the occurrence of germline and somatic mutations in RET, VHL, SDHB, and SDHD in comparatively large series of bilateral adrenal PCC (n = 33 patients) and sPGL (n = 26 patients), with the aim of determining the mutation frequency of each of these genes and to establish a genetic testing algorithm. Twenty-one RET, two VHL germline, and one SDHD mutations were found in the patients with bilateral adrenal PCC. In sPGL, one novel SDHB germline and one novel SDHB somatic mutation were observed. In addition, two SDHD germline mutations were found. We conclude that germline RET mutations are predominantly found in bilateral PCC, and that somatic and germline SDHB and SDHD mutations usually occur in sPGL, which has practical consequences for genetic testing algorithms. We suggest that sequential mutation analysis should be directed first at RET, followed by VHL and SDHD for patients with bilateral adrenal PCC at diagnosis, and at SDHB and SDHD for patients with sPGL.