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Open access

Himangshu S Bose, Alan M Rice, Brendan Marshall, Fadi Gebrail, David Kupshik and Elizabeth W Perry

Summary

Steroid hormones are essential for the survival of all mammals. In adrenal glands and gonads, cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage enzyme (SCC or CYP11A1), catalyzes conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone. We studied a patient with ambiguous genitalia by the absence of Müllerian ducts and the presence of an incompletely formed vagina, who had extremely high adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and reduced pregnenolone levels with enlarged adrenal glands. The testes revealed seminiferous tubules, stroma, rete testis with interstitial fibrosis and reduced number of germ cells. Electron microscopy showed that the patient’s testicular mitochondrial size was small with little SCC expression within the mitochondria. The mitochondria were not close to the mitochondria-associated ER membrane (MAM), and cells were filled with the microfilaments. Our result revealed that absence of pregnenolone is associated with organelle stress, leading to altered protein organization that likely created steric hindrance in testicular cells.

Learning points:

  • Testes revealed seminiferous tubules, stroma, rete testis with interstitial fibrosis and reduced number of germ cells;

  • Testicular mitochondrial size was small with little SCC expression within the mitochondria;

  • Absence of pregnenolone is associated with organelle stress.

Open access

Diana Oliveira, Mara Ventura, Miguel Melo, Sandra Paiva and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Addison’s disease (AD) is the most common endocrine manifestation of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), but it remains a very rare complication of the syndrome. It is caused by adrenal venous thrombosis and consequent hemorrhagic infarction or by spontaneous (without thrombosis) adrenal hemorrhage, usually occurring after surgery or anticoagulant therapy. We present a clinical case of a 36-year-old female patient with a previous diagnosis of APS. She presented with multiple thrombotic events, including spontaneous abortions. During evaluation by the third episode of abortion, a CT imaging revealed an adrenal hematoma, but the patient was discharged without further investigation. A few weeks later, she presented in the emergency department with manifestations suggestive of adrenal insufficiency. Based on that assumption, she started therapy with glucocorticoids, with significant clinical improvement. After stabilization, additional investigation confirmed AD and excluded other etiologies; she also started mineralocorticoid replacement. This case illustrates a rare complication of APS that, if misdiagnosed, may be life threatening. A high index of suspicion is necessary for its diagnosis, and prompt treatment is crucial to reduce the morbidity and mortality potentially associated.

Learning points:

  • AD is a rare but life-threatening complication of APS.

  • It is important to look for AD in patients with APS and a suggestive clinical scenario.

  • APS must be excluded in patients with primary adrenal insufficiency and adrenal imaging revealing thrombosis/hemorrhage.

  • Glucocorticoid therapy should be promptly initiated when AD is suspected.

  • Mineralocorticoid replacement must be started when there is confirmed aldosterone deficiency.

  • Hypertension is a common feature of APS; in patients with APS and AD, replacement therapy with glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids may jeopardize hypertension management.

Open access

Philip D Oddie, Benjamin B Albert, Paul L Hofman, Craig Jefferies, Stephen Laughton and Philippa J Carter

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) during childhood is a rare malignant tumor that frequently results in glucocorticoid and/or androgen excess. When there are signs of microscopic or macroscopic residual disease, adjuvant therapy is recommended with mitotane, an adrenolytic and cytotoxic drug. In addition to the anticipated side effect of adrenal insufficiency, mitotane is known to cause gynecomastia and hypothyroidism in adults. It has never been reported to cause precocious puberty. A 4-year-old girl presented with a 6-week history of virilization and elevated androgen levels and 1-year advancement in bone age. Imaging revealed a right adrenal mass, which was subsequently surgically excised. Histology revealed ACC with multiple unfavorable features, including high mitotic index, capsular invasion and atypical mitoses. Adjuvant chemotherapy was started with mitotane, cisplatin, etoposide and doxorubicin. She experienced severe gastrointestinal side effects and symptomatic adrenal insufficiency, which occurred despite physiological-dose corticosteroid replacement. She also developed hypothyroidism that responded to treatment with levothyroxine and peripheral precocious puberty (PPP) with progressive breast development and rapidly advancing bone age. Five months after discontinuing mitotane, her adrenal insufficiency persisted and she developed secondary central precocious puberty (CPP). This case demonstrates the diverse endocrine complications associated with mitotane therapy, which contrast with the presentation of ACC itself. It also provides the first evidence that the known estrogenic effect of mitotane can manifest as PPP.

Learning points:

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma is an important differential diagnosis for virilization in young children

  • Mitotane is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used to treat adrenocortical carcinoma and causes adrenal necrosis

  • Mitotane is an endocrine disruptor. In addition to the intended effect of adrenal insufficiency, it can cause hypothyroidism, with gynecomastia also reported in adults.

  • Patients taking mitotane require very high doses of hydrocortisone replacement therapy because mitotane interferes with steroid metabolism. This effect persists after mitotane therapy is completed

  • In our case, mitotane caused peripheral precocious puberty, possibly through its estrogenic effect.

Open access

Judith Gerards, Michael M Ritter, Elke Kaminsky, Andreas Gal, Wolfgang Hoeppner and Marcus Quinkler

Summary

DAX1 (NR0B1) is an orphan nuclear receptor, which plays an important role in development and function of the adrenal glands and gonads. Mutations in DAX1 cause X-linked adrenal hypoplasia congenita (X-linked AHC), which is characterized by adrenal insufficiency (AI) and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HHG). Affected boys present with adrenal failure usually in childhood and, later in life, with delayed puberty. However, patients with a late-onset form of X-linked AHC have also been described in the past years. We report a male patient who presented with symptoms of an adrenal crisis at the age of 38 years and was later diagnosed with HHG. Family history was positive with several male relatives diagnosed with AI and compatible with the assumed X-chromosomal inheritance of the trait. Direct sequencing of DAX1 of the patient revealed a hemizygous cytosine-to-thymine substitution at nucleotide 64 in exon 1, which creates a novel nonsense mutation (p.(Gln22*)). In order to compare the clinical presentation of the patient to that of other patients with X-linked AHC, we searched the electronic database MEDLINE (PubMed) and found reports of nine other cases with delayed onset of X-linked AHC. In certain cases, genotype–phenotype correlation could be assumed.

Learning points:

  • X-linked AHC is a rare disease characterized by primary AI and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HHG). The full-blown clinical picture is seen usually only in males with a typical onset in childhood.

  • Patients with a late-onset form of X-linked AHC have also been described recently. Being aware of this late-onset form might help to reach an early diagnosis and prevent life-threatening adrenal crises.

  • Adult men with primary AI of unknown etiology should be investigated for HHG. Detecting a DAX1 mutation may confirm the clinical diagnosis of late-onset X-linked AHC.

  • In relatives of patients with genetically confirmed X-linked AHC, targeted mutation analysis may help to identify family members at risk and asymptomatic carriers, and discuss conscious family planning.

Open access

T O’Shea, R K Crowley, M Farrell, S MacNally, P Govender, J Feeney, J Gibney and M Sherlock

Summary

Meningioma growth has been previously described in patients receiving oestrogen/progestogen therapy. We describe the clinical, radiological, biochemical and pathologic findings in a 45-year-old woman with congenital adrenal hyperplasia secondary to a defect in the 21-hydroxylase enzyme who had chronic poor adherence to glucocorticoid therapy with consequent virilisation. The patient presented with a frontal headache and marked right-sided proptosis. Laboratory findings demonstrated androgen excess with a testosterone of 18.1 nmol/L (0–1.5 nmol) and 17-Hydroxyprogesterone >180 nmol/L (<6.5 nmol/L). CT abdomen was performed as the patient complained of rapid-onset increasing abdominal girth and revealed bilateral large adrenal myelolipomata. MRI brain revealed a large meningioma involving the right sphenoid wing with anterior displacement of the right eye and associated bony destruction. Surgical debulking of the meningioma was performed and histology demonstrated a meningioma, which stained positive for the progesterone receptor. Growth of meningioma has been described in postmenopausal women receiving hormone replacement therapy, in women receiving contraceptive therapy and in transsexual patients undergoing therapy with high-dose oestrogen and progestogens. Progesterone receptor positivity has been described previously in meningiomas. 17-Hydroxyprogesterone is elevated in CAH and has affinity and biological activity at the progesterone receptor. Therefore, we hypothesise that patients who have long-standing increased adrenal androgen precursor concentrations may be at risk of meningioma growth.

Learning points:

  • Patients with long-standing CAH (particularly if not optimally controlled) may present with other complications, which may be related to long-standing elevated androgen or decreased glucocorticoid levels.

  • Chronic poor control of CAH is associated with adrenal myelolipoma and adrenal rest tissue tumours.

  • Meningiomas are sensitive to endocrine stimuli including progesterone, oestrogen and androgens as they express the relevant receptors.

Open access

Katia Regina Marchetti, Maria Adelaide Albergaria Pereira, Arnaldo Lichtenstein and Edison Ferreira Paiva

Summary

Adrenacarcinomas are rare, and hypoglycemic syndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by these tumors have been described infrequently. This study describes the case of a young woman with severe persistent hypoglycemia and a large adrenal tumor and discusses the physiopathological mechanisms involved in hypoglycemia. The case is described as a 21-year-old woman who presented with 8 months of general symptoms and, in the preceding 3 months, with episodes of mental confusion and visual blurring secondary to hypoglycemia. A functional assessment of the adrenal cortex revealed ACTH-independent hypercortisolism and hyperandrogenism. Hypoglycemia, hypoinsulinemia, low C-peptide and no ketones were also detected. An evaluation of the GH–IGF axis revealed GH blockade (0.03; reference: up to 4.4 ng/mL), greatly reduced IGF-I levels (9.0 ng/mL; reference: 180–780 ng/mL), slightly reduced IGF-II levels (197 ng/mL; reference: 267–616 ng/mL) and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio (21.9; reference: ~3). CT scan revealed a large expansive mass in the right adrenal gland and pulmonary and liver metastases. During hospitalization, the patient experienced frequent difficult-to-control hypoglycemia and hypokalemia episodes. Octreotide was ineffective in controlling hypoglycemia. Due to unresectability, chemotherapy was tried, but after 3 months, the patient’s condition worsened and progressed to death. In conclusion, our patient presented with a functional adrenal cortical carcinoma, with hyperandrogenism associated with hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis. Patient’s data suggested a diagnosis of hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor (low levels of GH, greatly decreased IGF-I, slightly decreased IGF-II and an elevated IGF-II/IGF-I ratio).

Learning points:

  • Hypoglycemyndrome resulting from the secretion of insulin-like growth factor II (IGF-II) by adrenal tumors is a rare condition.

  • Hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia associated with hyperandrogenism and blockage of the GH–IGF-I axis suggests hypoglycemia induced by an IGF-II or a large IGF-II-producing tumor.

  • Hypoglycemia in cases of NICTH should be treated with glucocorticoids, glucagon, somatostatin analogs and hGH.

Open access

Jasmeet Kaur, Alan M Rice, Elizabeth O’Connor, Anil Piya, Bradley Buckler and Himangshu S Bose

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is caused by mutations in cytochrome P450 side chain cleavage enzyme (CYP11A1 and old name, SCC). Errors in cholesterol side chain cleavage by the mitochondrial resident CYP11A1 results in an inadequate amount of pregnenolone production. This study was performed to evaluate the cause of salt-losing crisis and possible adrenal failure in a pediatric patient whose mother had a history of two previous stillbirths and loss of another baby within a week of birth. CAH can appear in any population in any region of the world. The study was conducted at Memorial University Medical Center and Mercer University School of Medicine. The patient was admitted to Pediatric Endocrinology Clinic due to salt-losing crisis and possible adrenal failure. The patient had CAH, an autosomal recessive disease, due to a novel mutation in exon 5 of the CYP11A1 gene, which generated a truncated protein of 286 amino acids compared with wild-type protein that has 521 amino acids (W286X). Although unrelated, both parents are carriers. Mitochondrial protein import analysis of the mutant CYP11A1 in steroidogenic MA-10 cells showed that the protein is imported in a similar fashion as observed for the wild-type protein and was cleaved to a shorter fragment. However, mutant’s activity was 10% of that obtained for the wild-type protein in non-steroidogenic COS-1 cells. In a patient of Mexican descent, a homozygous CYP11A1 mutation caused CAH, suggesting that this disease is not geographically restricted even in a homogeneous population.

Learning points:

  • Novel mutation in CYP11A1 causes CAH;

  • This is a pure population from Central Mexico;

  • Novel mutation created early truncated protein.

Open access

Asma Deeb, Hana Al Suwaidi, Salima Attia and Ahlam Al Ameri

Summary

Combined17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase deficiency is a rare cause of congenital adrenal hyperplasia and hypogonadism. Hypertension and hypokalemia are essential presenting features. We report an Arab family with four affected XX siblings. The eldest presented with abdominal pain and was diagnosed with a retroperitoneal malignant mixed germ cell tumour. She was hypertensive and hypogonadal. One sibling presented with headache due to hypertension while the other two siblings were diagnosed with hypertension on a routine school check. A homozygous R96Q missense mutation in P450c17 was detected in the index case who had primary amenorrhea and lack of secondary sexual characters at 17 years. The middle two siblings were identical twins and had no secondary sexual characters at the age of 14. All siblings had hypokalemia, very low level of adrenal androgens, high ACTH and high levels of aldosterone substrates. Treatment was commenced with steroid replacement and puberty induction with estradiol. The index case had surgical tumor resection and chemotherapy. All siblings required antihypertensive treatment and the oldest remained on two antihypertensive medications 12 years after diagnosis. Her breast development remained poor despite adequate hormonal replacement. Combined 17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase deficiency is a rare condition but might be underdiagnosed. It should be considered in young patients presenting with hypertension, particularly if there is a family history of consanguinity and with more than one affected sibling. Antihypertensive medication might continue to be required despite adequate steroid replacement. Breast development may remain poor in mutations causing complete form of the disease.

Learning points

  • Endocrine hypertension due to rarer forms of CAH should be considered in children and adolescents, particularly if more than one sibling is affected and in the presence of consanguinity.

  • 17α-hydroxylase/17,20-lyase deficiency is a rare form of CAH but might be underdiagnosed.

  • Blood pressure measurement should be carried out in all females presenting with hypogonadism.

  • Anti-hypertensive medications might be required despite adequate steroid replacement.

  • Initial presenting features might vary within affected members of the same family.

  • Adverse breast development might be seen in the complete enzyme deficiency forms of the disease.

Open access

Chrisanthi Marakaki, Anna Papadopoulou, Olga Karapanou, Dimitrios T Papadimitriou, Kleanthis Kleanthous and Anastasios Papadimitriou

Summary

11β-hydroxylase deficiency (11β-OHD), an autosomal recessive inherited disorder, accounts for 5–8% of congenital adrenal hyperplasia. In Greece, no cases of 11β-OHD have been described so far. The patient presented at the age of 13 months with mild virilization of external genitalia and pubic hair development since the age of 3 months. Hormonal profile showed elevated 11-deoxycortisol, adrenal androgens and ACTH levels. ACTH stimulation test was compatible with 11β-OHD. DNA of the proband and her parents was isolated and genotyped for CYP11B1 gene coding cytochrome P450c11. The girl was found to be compound heterozygous for two CYP11B1 novel mutations, p.Ala386Glu (exon 7), inherited from the father and p.Leu471Argin (exon 9) from the mother. Hydrocortisone supplementation therapy was initiated. Four years after presentation she remains normotensive, her growth pattern is normal and the bone age remains advanced despite adequate suppression of adrenal androgens.

Learning points

  • 11β-hydroxylase (CYP11B1) deficiency (11OHD; OMIM +202010) is the second most common cause of CAH accounting for approximately 5–8% of cases with an incidence of 1:100 000–1:200 000 live births in non-consanguineous populations.

  • Two CYP11B1 inactivating novel mutations, p.Ala386Glu and p.Leu471Arg are reported

  • Regarding newborn females, in utero androgen excess results in ambiguous genitalia, whereas in the male newborn diagnosis may go undetected. In infancy and childhood adrenal androgen overproduction results in peripheral precocious puberty in boys and various degrees of virilization in girls.

  • Accumulation of 11-deoxycorticosterone and its metabolites causes hypertension in about two thirds of patients.

  • Diagnosis lies upon elevated 11-deoxycortisol and DOC plus upstream precursors, such as 17α-hydroxyprogesterone and Δ4-androstenedione.

  • The established treatment of steroid 11β-OHD is similar to that of steroid 21-hydroxylase deficiency and consists of glucocorticoid administration in order to reduce ACTH-driven DOC overproduction resulting in hypertension remission and improvement of the virilization symptoms.

Open access

Ravi Kumar Menon, Francesco Ferrau, Tom R Kurzawinski, Gill Rumsby, Alexander Freeman, Zahir Amin, Márta Korbonits and Teng-Teng L L Chung

Summary

Adrenal cortical carcinoma (ACC) has previously only been reported in eight patients with type 1 neurofibromatosis (NF1). There has not been any clear evidence of a causal association between NF1 gene mutations and adrenocortical malignancy development. We report the case of a 49-year-old female, with no family history of endocrinopathy, who was diagnosed with ACC on the background of NF1, due to a novel germline frame shift mutation (c.5452_5453delAT) in exon 37 of the NF1 gene. A left adrenal mass was detected by ultrasound and characterised by contrast computerised tomography (CT) scan. Biochemical tests showed mild hypercortisolism and androgen excess. A 24-h urinary steroid profile and 18flouro deoxy glucose PET suggested ACC. An open adrenalectomy was performed and histology confirmed ACC. This is the first reported case with DNA analysis, which demonstrated the loss of heterozygosity (LOH) at the NF1 locus in the adrenal cancer, supporting the hypothesis of an involvement of the NF1 gene in the pathogenesis of ACC. LOH analysis of the tumour suggests that the loss of neurofibromin in the adrenal cells may lead to tumour formation.

Learning points

  • ACC is rare but should be considered in a patient with NF1 and adrenal mass when plasma metanephrines are normal.

  • Urinary steroid metabolites and PET/CT are helpful in supporting evidence for ACC.

  • The LOH at the NF1 region of the adrenal tumour supports the role of loss of neurofibromin in the development of ACC.