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Open access

Lukas Burget, Laura Audí Parera, Monica Fernandez-Cancio, Rolf Gräni, Christoph Henzen and Christa E Flück

Summary

Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR) is a key protein for the intracellular transport of cholesterol to the mitochondrium in endocrine organs (e.g. adrenal gland, ovaries, testes) and essential for the synthesis of all steroid hormones. Several mutations have been described and the clinical phenotype varies strongly and may be grouped into classic lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia (LCAH), in which all steroidogenesis is disrupted, and non-classic LCAH, which resembles familial glucocorticoid deficiency (FGD), which affects predominantly adrenal functions. Classic LCAH is characterized by early and potentially life-threatening manifestation of primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) with electrolyte disturbances and 46,XY disorder of sex development (DSD) in males as well as lack of pubertal development in both sexes. Non-classic LCAH manifests usually later in life with PAI. Nevertheless, life-long follow-up of gonadal function is warranted. We describe a 26-year-old female patient who was diagnosed with PAI early in life without detailed diagnostic work-up. At the age of 14 months, she presented with hyperpigmentation, elevated ACTH and low cortisol levels. As her older brother was diagnosed with PAI two years earlier, she was put on hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone replacement therapy before an Addisonian crisis occurred. Upon review of her case in adulthood, consanguinity was noted in the family. Genetic analysis for PAI revealed a homozygous mutation in the STAR gene (c.562C>T, p.Arg188Cys) in both siblings. This mutation has been previously described in non-classic LCAH. This case illustrates that early onset, familial PAI is likely due to autosomal recessive genetic mutations in known genes causing PAI.

Learning points:

  • In childhood-onset PAI, a genetic cause is most likely, especially in families with consanguinity.

  • Adult patients with an etiologically unsolved PAI should be reviewed repeatedly and genetic work-up should be considered.

  • Knowing the exact genetic diagnosis in PAI is essential for genetic counselling and may allow disease-specific treatment.

  • Young men and women with NCLAH due to homozygous STAR Arg188Cys mutation should be investigated for their gonadal function as hypogonadism and infertility might occur during puberty or in early adulthood.

Open access

Jeremy M W Kirk, Nalin Wickramasuriya and Nicholas J Shaw

Summary

Estrogen is used to induce puberty in peripubertal girls with hypogonadism. Although both synthetic and natural forms are available, along with different routes of administration, in the UK oral ethinyl estradiol and the low-dose oral contraceptive pill are commonly used as hormone replacement therapy for practical reasons. We present five peripubertal girls (aged 12.5–14.9 years) with hypogonadism (two with primary hypogonadism due to Turner syndrome and three with central (secondary) hypogonadism as part of multiple pituitary hormone deficiency) who for a variety of reasons have received milligram doses of estradiol (E2) in error for between 6 weeks and 6 months, instead of the expected microgram doses of ethinyl estradiol. Although there are no direct comparisons in peripubertal girls between synthetic and natural estrogens, all girls had vaginal bleeding whilst receiving the milligram doses and have ended up with reduced final heights, below the 9th centile in 1 and below the 2nd centile in 4. Whilst reduction in final height may be part of the underlying condition (especially in Turner syndrome) the two girls with height predictions performed prior to receiving the estrogen overdose have not achieved their predicted height. Estrogen is one of the few drugs which is available in both milligram and microgram formulations. Clinicians need to be alert to the possibility of patients receiving the wrong formulation and dosage in error.

Learning points

  • Girls with primary and secondary gonadal failure require assistance with pubertal induction.

  • Although several different formulations and route of administration are available, for practical reasons, the majority of girls in the UK receive oral ethinyl estradiol.

  • Estrogen preparations are available in both milligram and microgram formulations, with potential for receiving the wrong dose.

  • Girls receiving milligram rather than microgram preparations all had vaginal bleeding and a short final height.