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Free access

Felix G Riepe, Wiebke Ahrens, Nils Krone, Regina Fölster-Holst, Jochen Brasch, Wolfgang G Sippell, Olaf Hiort and Carl-Joachim Partsch

Objective: To clarify the molecular defect for the clinical finding of congenital hypothyroidism combined with the manifestation of calcinosis cutis in infancy.

Case report: The male patient presented with moderately elevated blood thyrotropin levels at neonatal screening combined with slightly decreased plasma thyroxine and tri-iodothyronine concentrations, necessitating thyroid hormone substitution 2 weeks after birth. At the age of 7 months calcinosis cutis was seen and the patient underwent further investigation. Typical features of Albright’s hereditary osteodystrophy (AHO), including round face, obesity and delayed psychomotor development, were found.

Methods and results: Laboratory investigation revealed a resistance to parathyroid hormone (PTH) with highly elevated PTH levels and a reduction in adenylyl cyclase-stimulating protein (Gsα) activity leading to the diagnosis of pseudohypoparathyroidism type Ia (PHP Ia). A novel heterozygous mutation (c364T > G in exon 5, leading to the amino acid substitution Ile-106 → Ser) was detected in the GNAS gene of the patient. This mutation was not found in the patient’s parents, both of whom showed normal Gsα protein activity in erythrocytes and no features of AHO. A de novo mutation is therefore likely.

Conclusions: Subcutaneous calcifications in infancy should prompt the clinician to a thorough search for an underlying disease. The possibility of AHO and PHP Ia should be considered in children with hypothyroidism and calcinosis cutis. Systematic reviews regarding the frequency of calcinosis in AHO are warranted.

Free access

Jan Idkowiak, Gareth G Lavery, Vivek Dhir, Timothy G Barrett, Paul M Stewart, Nils Krone and Wiebke Arlt

Adrenarche reflects the maturation of the adrenal zona reticularis resulting in increased secretion of the adrenal androgen precursor DHEA and its sulphate ester DHEAS. Premature adrenarche (PA) is defined by increased levels of DHEA and DHEAS before the age of 8 years in girls and 9 years in boys and the concurrent presence of signs of androgen action including adult-type body odour, oily skin and hair and pubic hair growth. PA is distinct from precocious puberty, which manifests with the development of secondary sexual characteristics including testicular growth and breast development. Idiopathic PA (IPA) has long been considered an extreme of normal variation, but emerging evidence links IPA to an increased risk of developing the metabolic syndrome (MS) and thus ultimately cardiovascular morbidity. Areas of controversy include the question whether IPA in girls is associated with a higher rate of progression to the polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and whether low birth weight increases the risk of developing IPA. The recent discoveries of two novel monogenic causes of early onset androgen excess, apparent cortisone reductase deficiency and apparent DHEA sulphotransferase deficiency, support the notion that PA may represent a forerunner condition for PCOS. Future research including carefully designed longitudinal studies is required to address the apparent link between early onset androgen excess and the development of insulin resistance and the MS.

Open access

Silvia Parajes, Angel OK Chan, W M But, Ian T Rose, Angela E Taylor, Vivek Dhir, Wiebke Arlt and Nils Krone

Context

Cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage enzyme (CYP11A1) catalyses the first and rate-limiting step of steroidogenesis, the conversion of cholesterol to pregnenolone. CYP11A1 deficiency is commonly associated with adrenal insufficiency, and in 46,XY individuals, with variable degrees of disorder of sex development (DSD).

Patient and methods

The patient was born with hyperpigmentation, micropenis, penoscrotal hypospadias, and mild cryptorchidism. Biochemical and hormonal findings were normal except for low testosterone and low-borderline cortisol. However, no short synacthen test was undertaken. Development was unremarkable apart from an episode labeled as sepsis with documented hyperkalemia and elevated C-reactive protein at age 15 days. Diagnosis of 46,XY DSD was made at age 2.5 months. Progression of hyperpigmentation prompted further investigations and the diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency was established at 2 years with raised ACTH, normal renin activity, and failure of cortisol to respond to short synacthen test. Genetic analyses were performed. The novel CYP11A1 mutations were characterized in vitro and in silico.

Results

The patient was compound heterozygous for two novel CYP11A1 mutations, p.R360W and p.R405X. p.R360W retained 30–40% of wild-type activity. In silico analyses confirmed these findings and indicated that p.R405X is severe.

Conclusions

This study demonstrates the pathogenicity of two novel CYP11A1 mutations found in a patient with delayed diagnosis of CYP11A1 deficiency. Patients with partial deficiencies of steroidogenic enzymes are at risk to be misdiagnosed if adrenal function is not assessed. The adrenocortical function should be routinely assessed in all patients with DSD including severe hypospadias of unknown origin to prevent life-threatening adrenal crises.

Open access

Jan Idkowiak, Yasir S Elhassan, Pascoe Mannion, Karen Smith, Rachel Webster, Vrinda Saraff, Timothy G Barrett, Nicholas J Shaw, Nils Krone, Renuka P Dias, Melanie Kershaw, Jeremy M Kirk, Wolfgang Högler, Ruth E Krone, Michael W O’Reilly and Wiebke Arlt

Objective

Androgen excess in childhood is a common presentation and may signify sinister underlying pathology. Data describing its patterns and severity are scarce, limiting the information available for clinical decision processes. Here, we examined the differential diagnostic value of serum DHEAS, androstenedione (A4) and testosterone in childhood androgen excess.

Design

Retrospective review of all children undergoing serum androgen measurement at a single center over 5 years.

Methods

Serum A4 and testosterone were measured by tandem mass spectrometry and DHEAS by immunoassay. Patients with at least one increased androgen underwent phenotyping by clinical notes review.

Results

In 487 children with simultaneous DHEAS, A4 and testosterone measurements, we identified 199 with androgen excess (140 pre- and 59 post-pubertal). Premature adrenarche (PA) was the most common pre-pubertal diagnosis (61%), characterized by DHEAS excess in 85%, while A4 and testosterone were only increased in 26 and 9% respectively. PCOS was diagnosed in 40% of post-pubertal subjects, presenting equally frequent with isolated excess of DHEAS (29%) or testosterone (25%) or increases in both A4 and testosterone (25%). CAH patients (6%) predominantly had A4 excess (86%); testosterone and DHEAS were increased in 50 and 33% respectively. Concentrations increased above the two-fold upper limit of normal were mostly observed in PA for serum DHEAS (>20-fold in the single case of adrenocortical carcinoma) and in CAH for serum androstenedione.

Conclusions

Patterns and severity of childhood androgen excess provide pointers to the underlying diagnosis and can be used to guide further investigations.

Open access

Thang S Han, Nils Krone, Debbie S Willis, Gerard S Conway, Stefanie Hahner, D Aled Rees, Roland H Stimson, Brian R Walker, Wiebke Arlt, Richard J Ross and the United Kingdom Congenital adrenal Hyperplasia Adult Study Executive (CaHASE)

Context

Quality of life (QoL) has been variously reported as normal or impaired in adults with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). To explore the reasons for this discrepancy we investigated the relationship between QoL, glucocorticoid treatment and other health outcomes in CAH adults.

Methods

Cross-sectional analysis of 151 adults with 21-hydroxylase deficiency aged 18–69 years in whom QoL (assessed using the Short Form Health Survey), glucocorticoid regimen, anthropometric and metabolic measures were recorded. Relationships were examined between QoL, type of glucocorticoid (hydrocortisone, prednisolone and dexamethasone) and dose of glucocorticoid expressed as prednisolone dose equivalent (PreDEq). QoL was expressed as z-scores calculated from matched controls (14 430 subjects from UK population). Principal components analysis (PCA) was undertaken to identify clusters of associated clinical and biochemical features and the principal component (PC) scores used in regression analysis as predictor of QoL.

Results

QoL scores were associated with type of glucocorticoid treatment for vitality (P=0.002) and mental health (P=0.011), with higher z-scores indicating better QoL in patients on hydrocortisone monotherapy (P<0.05). QoL did not relate to PreDEq or mutation severity. PCA identified three PCs (PC1, disease control; PC2, adiposity and insulin resistance and PC3, blood pressure and mutations) that explained 61% of the variance in observed variables. Stepwise multiple regression analysis demonstrated that PC2, reflecting adiposity and insulin resistance (waist circumference, serum triglycerides, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance and HDL-cholesterol), related to QoL scores, specifically impaired physical functioning, bodily pain, general health, Physical Component Summary Score (P<0.001) and vitality (P=0.002).

Conclusions

Increased adiposity, insulin resistance and use of prednisolone or dexamethasone are associated with impaired QoL in adults with CAH. Intervention trials are required to establish whether choice of glucocorticoid treatment and/or weight loss can improve QoL in CAH adults.