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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

Pedro Marques, Nicola Tufton, Satya Bhattacharya, Mark Caulfield and Scott A Akker

Summary

Mineralocorticoid hypertension is most often caused by autonomous overproduction of aldosterone, but excess of other mineralocorticoid precursors can lead to a similar presentation. 11-Deoxycorticosterone (DOC) excess, which can occur in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies, in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension. We report a 35-year-old woman who in the third trimester of pregnancy was found to have a large adrenal mass on routine obstetric ultrasound. On referral to our unit, persistent hypertension and long-standing hypokalaemia was noted, despite good compliance with multiple antihypertensives. Ten years earlier, she had hypertension noted in pregnancy which had persisted after delivery. A MRI scan confirmed the presence of a 12 cm adrenal mass and biochemistry revealed high levels of DOC and low/normal renin, aldosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone, with normal catecholamine levels. The patient was treated with antihypertensives until obstetric delivery, following which she underwent an adrenalectomy. Histology confirmed a large adrenal cortical neoplasm of uncertain malignant potential. Postoperatively, blood pressure and serum potassium normalised, and the antihypertensive medication was stopped. Over 10 years of follow-up, she remains asymptomatic with normal DOC measurements. This case should alert clinicians to the possibility of a diagnosis of a DOC-producing adrenal tumours in patients with adrenal nodules and apparent mineralocorticoid hypertension in the presence of low or normal levels of aldosterone. The associated diagnostic and management challenges are discussed.

Learning points:

  • Hypermineralocorticoidism is characterised by hypertension, volume expansion and hypokalaemic alkalosis and is most commonly due to overproduction of aldosterone. However, excess of other mineralocorticoid products, such as DOC, lead to the same syndrome but with normal or low aldosterone levels.
  • The differential diagnosis of resistant hypertension with low renin and low/normal aldosterone includes congenital adrenal hyperplasia, syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid excess, Cushing’s syndrome, Liddle’s syndrome and 11-deoxycorticosterone-producing tumours.
  • DOC is one intermediate product in the mineralocorticoid synthesis with weaker activity than aldosterone. However, marked DOC excess seen in 11-β hydroxylase or 17-α hydroxylase deficiencies in DOC-producing adrenocortical tumours or in patients taking 11-β hydroxylase inhibitors, may cause mineralocorticoid hypertension.
  • Excessive production of DOC in adrenocortical tumours has been attributed to reduced activity of the enzymes 11-β hydroxylase and 17-α hydroxylase and increased activity of 21-α hydroxylase.
  • The diagnosis of DOC-producing adrenal tumours is challenging because of its rarity and poor availability of DOC laboratory assays.
Open access

Catherine D Zhang, Pavel N Pichurin, Aleh Bobr, Melanie L Lyden, William F Young Jr and Irina Bancos

Summary

Carney complex (CNC) is a rare multiple neoplasia syndrome characterized by spotty pigmentation of the skin and mucosa in association with various non-endocrine and endocrine tumors, including primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD). A 20-year-old woman was referred for suspected Cushing syndrome. She had signs of cortisol excess as well as skin lentigines on physical examination. Biochemical investigation was suggestive of corticotropin (ACTH)-independent Cushing syndrome. Unenhanced computed tomography scan of the abdomen did not reveal an obvious adrenal mass. She subsequently underwent bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy, and histopathology was consistent with PPNAD. Genetic testing revealed a novel frameshift pathogenic variant c.488delC/p.Thr163MetfsX2 (ClinVar Variation ID: 424516) in the PRKAR1A gene, consistent with clinical suspicion for CNC. Evaluation for other clinical features of the complex was unrevealing. We present a case of PPNAD-associated Cushing syndrome leading to the diagnosis of CNC due to a novel PRKAR1A pathogenic variant.

Learning points:

  • PPNAD should be considered in the differential for ACTH-independent Cushing syndrome, especially when adrenal imaging appears normal.
  • The diagnosis of PPNAD should prompt screening for CNC.
  • CNC is a rare multiple neoplasia syndrome caused by inactivating pathogenic variants in the PRKAR1A gene.
  • Timely diagnosis of CNC and careful surveillance can help prevent potentially fatal complications of the disease.
Open access

M A Shehab, Tahseen Mahmood, M A Hasanat, Md Fariduddin, Nazmul Ahsan, Mohammad Shahnoor Hossain, Md Shahdat Hossain and Sharmin Jahan

Summary

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) due to the three-beta-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase (3β-HSD) enzyme deficiency is a rare autosomal recessive disorder presenting with sexual precocity in a phenotypic male. Klinefelter syndrome (KS) is the most common sex chromosome aneuploidy presenting with hypergonadotropic hypogonadism in a male. However, only a handful of cases of mosaic KS have been described in the literature. The co-existence of mosaic KS with CAH due to 3β-HSD enzyme deficiency portrays a unique diagnostic paradox where features of gonadal androgen deficiency are masked by simultaneous adrenal androgen excess. Here, we report a 7-year-old phenotypic male boy who, at birth presented with ambiguous genitalia, probably a microphallus with penoscrotal hypospadias. Later on, he developed accelerated growth with advanced bone age, premature pubarche, phallic enlargement and hyperpigmentation. Biochemically, the patient was proven to have CAH due to 3β-HSD deficiency. However, the co-existence of bilateral cryptorchidism made us to consider the possibility of hypogonadism as well, and it was further explained by concurrent existence of mosaic KS (47,XXY/46,XX). He was started on glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement and underwent right-sided orchidopexy on a later date. He showed significant clinical and biochemical improvement on subsequent follow-up. However, the declining value of serum testosterone was accompanied by rising level of FSH thereby unmasking hypergonadotropic hypogonadism due to mosaic KS. In future, we are planning to place him on androgen replacement as well.

Learning points:

  • Ambiguous genitalia with subsequent development of sexual precocity in a phenotypic male points towards some unusual varieties of CAH.
  • High level of serum testosterone, adrenal androgen, plasma ACTH and low basal cortisol are proof of CAH, whereas elevated level of 17-OH pregnenolone is biochemical marker of 3β-HSD enzyme deficiency.
  • Final diagnosis can be obtained with sequencing of HSD3B2 gene showing various mutations.
  • Presence of bilateral cryptorchidism in such a patient may be due to underlying hypogonadism.
  • Karyotyping in such patient may rarely show mosaic KS (47,XXY/46,XX) and there might be unmasking of hypergonadotropic hypogonadism resulting from adrenal androgen suppression from glucocorticoid treatment.
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

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

J Rajkanna and S O Oyibo

Summary

Testicular adrenal rest tumours (TARTs) are benign ACTH-dependent tumours that occur in males with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) and if left untreated can destroy testicular tissue. Corticosteroid suppressive treatment could result in the regression of these testicular tumours. We present a patient with bilateral large TARTs as a consequence of poor compliance to treatment and follow-up for his CAH, who consequently had to have bilateral orchidectomies and prosthesis replacement.

Learning points

  • TARTs are frequently seen in males with CAH, and can be misdiagnosed as primary testicular cancer.
  • Patient compliance to treatment and follow-up are necessary to reduce the risk of testicular damage as a result of TARTs in patients with CAH.
  • Boys with CAH should have periodic ultrasonographic screening from before adolescent age for early detection of TARTs.
  • Regular monitoring of renin, 17-hydroxyprogesterone and androgens levels is required to assess corticosteroid suppressive treatment.
  • Patients with CAH should be offered psychological support and information concerning CAH support groups.

Open access

Sophie Comte-Perret, Anne Zanchi and Fulgencio Gomez

Summary

Medical therapy for Cushing's syndrome due to bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (BMAH) is generally administered for a limited time before surgery. Aberrant receptors antagonists show inconsistent efficacy in the long run to prevent adrenalectomy. We present a patient with BMAH, treated for 10 years with low doses of ketoconazole to control cortisol secretion. A 48-year-old woman presented with headaches and hypertension. Investigations showed the following: no clinical signs of Cushing's syndrome; enlarged lobulated adrenals; normal creatinine, potassium, and aldosterone; normal urinary aldosterone and metanephrines; elevated urinary free cortisol and steroid metabolites; and suppressed plasma renin activity and ACTH. A screening protocol for aberrant adrenal receptors failed to show any illegitimate hormone dependence. Ketoconazole caused rapid normalisation of cortisol and ACTH that persists over 10 years on treatment, while adrenals show no change in shape or size. Ketoconazole decreases cortisol in patients with Cushing's syndrome, and may prevent adrenal overgrowth. Steroid secretion in BMAH is inefficient as compared with normal adrenals or secreting tumours and can be controlled with low, well-tolerated doses of ketoconazole, as an alternative to surgery.

Learning points

  • Enlarged, macronodular adrenals are often incidentally found during the investigation of hypertension in patients harboring BMAH. Although laboratory findings include low ACTH and elevated cortisol, the majority of patients do not display cushingoid features.
  • Bilateral adrenalectomy, followed by life-long steroid replacement, is the usual treatment of this benign condition, and alternative medical therapy is sought. Therapy based on aberrant adrenal receptors gives disappointing results, and inhibitors of steroidogenesis are not always well tolerated.
  • However, ketoconazole at low, well-tolerated doses appeared appropriate to control adrenal steroid secretion indefinitely, while preventing adrenal overgrowth. This treatment probably constitutes the most convenient long-term alternative to surgery.

Open access

Carla Costa, Cíntia Castro-Correia, Alda Mira-Coelho, Bessa Monteiro, Joaquim Monteiro, Ieuan Hughes and Manuel Fontoura

Summary

The development of male internal and external genitalia in an XY fetus requires a complex interplay of many critical genes, enzymes, and cofactors. The enzyme 17β-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase type 3 (17βHSD3) is present almost exclusively in the testicles and converts Delta 4-androstenodione (Δ4) to testosterone. A deficiency in this enzyme is rare and is a frequently misdiagnosed autosomal recessive cause of 46,XY, disorder of sex development. The case report is of a 15-year-old adolescent, who was raised according to female gender. At puberty, the adolescent had a severe virilization and primary amenorrhea. The physical examination showed a male phenotype with micropenis and blind vagina. The Tanner stage was A3B1P4, nonpalpable gonads. The karyotype revealed 46,XY. The endocrinology study revealed: testosterone=2.38 ng/ml, Δ4>10.00 ng/ml, and low testosterone/Δ4 ratio=0.23. Magnetic resonance imaging of the abdominal–pelvic showed the presence of testicles in inguinal canal, seminal vesicle, prostate, micropenis, and absence of uterus and vagina. The genetic study confirmed the mutation p.Glu215Asp on HSD17B3 gene in homozygosity. The dilemma of sex reassignment was seriously considered when the diagnosis was made. During all procedures the patient was accompanied by a child psychiatrist/psychologist. The teenager desired to continue being a female, so gonadectomy was performed. Estrogen therapy and surgical procedure to change external genitalia was carried out. In this case, there was a severe virilization at puberty. It is speculated to be due to a partial activity of 17βHSD3 in the testicles and/or extratesticular ability to convert Δ4 to testosterone by 17βHSD5. Prenatal exposure of the brain to androgens has increasingly been put forward as a critical factor in gender identity development, but in this case the social factor was more important for the gender assignment.

Learning points

  • In this case, we highlight the late diagnosis, probably because the patient belongs to a poor family without proper primary medical care.
  • We emphasize the psychological and social aspects in the sex assignment decision.