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Graeme Eisenhofer, Karel Pacak, Thanh-Truc Huynh, Nan Qin, Gennady Bratslavsky, W Marston Linehan, Massimo Mannelli, Peter Friberg, Stefan K Grebe, Henri J Timmers, Stefan R Bornstein, and Jacques W M Lenders

Phaeochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs) are highly heterogeneous tumours with variable catecholamine biochemical phenotypes and diverse hereditary backgrounds. This analysis of 18 catecholamine-related plasma and urinary biomarkers in 365 patients with PPGLs and 846 subjects without PPGLs examined how catecholamine metabolomic profiles are impacted by hereditary background and relate to variable hormone secretion. Catecholamine secretion was assessed in a subgroup of 156 patients from whom tumour tissue was available for measurements of catecholamine contents. Among all analytes, the free catecholamine O-methylated metabolites measured in plasma showed the largest tumour-related increases relative to the reference group. Patients with tumours due to multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) showed similar catecholamine metabolite and secretory profiles to patients with adrenaline-producing tumours and no evident hereditary background. Tumours from these three patient groups contained higher contents of catecholamines, but secreted the hormones at lower rates than tumours that did not contain appreciable adrenaline, the latter including PPGLs due to von Hippel–Lindau (VHL) and succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) gene mutations. Large increases of plasma dopamine and its metabolites additionally characterised patients with PPGLs due to the latter mutations, whereas patients with NF1 were characterised by large increases in plasma dihydroxyphenylglycol and dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, the deaminated metabolites of noradrenaline and dopamine. This analysis establishes the utility of comprehensive catecholamine metabolite profiling for characterising the distinct and highly diverse catecholamine metabolomic and secretory phenotypes among different groups of patients with PPGLs. The data further suggest developmental origins of PPGLs from different populations of chromaffin cell progenitors.

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Nicole Bechmann, Mats Leif Moskopp, Martin Ullrich, Bruna Calsina, Pål William Wallace, Susan Richter, Markus Friedemann, Katharina Langton, Stephanie M J Fliedner, Henri J L M Timmers, Svenja Nölting, Felix Beuschlein, Martin Fassnacht, Aleksander Prejbisz, Karel Pacak, Hans K Ghayee, Stefan R Bornstein, Peter Dieterich, Jens Pietzsch, Ben Wielockx, Mercedes Robledo, Nan Qin, and Graeme Eisenhofer

Mutations that drive the stabilization of hypoxia inducible factor 2α (HIF2α) and downstream pseudohypoxic signaling are known to predispose to the development of pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs). However, any role of HIF2α in predisposition to metastatic disease remains unclear. To assess such a role we combined gene-manipulations in pheochromocytoma cell lines with retrospective analyses of patient data and gene expression profiling in tumor specimens. Among 425 patients with PPGLs identified with mutations in tumor-susceptibility genes, those with tumors due to activation of pseudohypoxic pathways had a higher frequency of metastatic disease than those with tumors due to activation of kinase-signaling pathways, even without inclusion of patients with mutations in SDHB (18.6% vs 4.3% in, P < 0.0001). Three out of nine (33%) patients with gain-of-function mutations in HIF2α had metastatic disease. In cell line studies, elevated expression of HIF2α enhanced cell proliferation and led to increased migration and invasion capacity. Moreover, HIF2α expression in HIF2α-deficient cells resulted in increased cell motility, diffuse cluster formation and emergence of pseudopodia indicating changes in cell adhesion and cytoskeletal remodeling. In a mouse liver metastasis model, Hif2a enhanced the metastatic load. Transcriptomics data revealed alterations in focal adhesion and extracellular matrix–receptor interactions in HIF2α-mutated PPGLs. Our translational findings demonstrate that HIF2α supports pro-metastatic behavior in PPGLs, though other factors remain critical for subsequent transition to metastasis. We identified LAMB1 and COL4A2 as new potential therapeutic targets for HIF2α-driven PPGLs. Identified HIF2α downstream targets might open a new therapeutic window for aggressive HIF2α-expressing tumors.