Cortisol measurements in blood, saliva and urine are frequently used to examine the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis in clinical practice and in research. However, cortisol levels are subject to variations due to acute stress, the diurnal rhythm and pulsatile secretion. Cortisol measurements in body fluids are not always a reflection of long-term cortisol exposure. The analysis of cortisol in scalp hair is a relatively novel method to measure cumulative cortisol exposure over months up to years. Over the past years, hair cortisol concentrations (HCC) have been examined in association with a large number of somatic and mental health conditions. HCC can be used to evaluate disturbances of the HPA axis, including Cushing's syndrome, and to evaluate hydrocortisone treatment. Using HCC, retrospective timelines of cortisol exposure can be created which can be of value in diagnosing cyclic hypercortisolism. HCC have also been shown to increase with psychological stressors, including major life events, as well as physical stressors, such as endurance exercise and shift work. Initial studies show that HCC may be increased in depression, but decreased in general anxiety disorder. In posttraumatic stress disorder, changes in HCC seem to be dependent on the type of traumatic experience and the time since traumatization. Increased hair cortisol is consistently linked to obesity, metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Potentially, HCC could form a future marker for cardiovascular risk stratification, as well as serve as a treatment target.
Vincent L Wester and Elisabeth F C van Rossum
Vincent L Wester, Jan W Koper, Erica L T van den Akker, Oscar H Franco, Ronald P Stolk, and Elisabeth F C van Rossum
An excess of glucocorticoids (Cushing’s syndrome) is associated with metabolic syndrome (MetS) features. Several single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) gene influence sensitivity to glucocorticoids and have been associated with aspects of MetS. However, results are inconsistent, perhaps due to the heterogeneity of the studied populations and limited samples. Furthermore, the possible association between functional GR SNPs and prevalence of MetS remains unexplored.
Cross-sectional population-based cohort study.
MetS presence and carriage of functional GR SNPs (BclI, N363S, ER22/23EK, GR-9beta) were determined in 12 552 adult participants from Lifelines, a population-based cohort study in the Netherlands. GR SNPs were used to construct GR haplotypes.
Five haplotypes accounted for 99.9% of all GR haplotypes found. No main effects of functional GR haplotypes on MetS were found, but the association of GR haplotype 4 (containing N363S) with MetS was influenced by interaction with age, sex and education status (P < 0.05). Stratified analysis revealed that haplotype 4 increased MetS presence in younger men (at or below the median age of 47; odds ratio 1.77, P = 0.005) and in people of low education status (odds ratio 1.48, P = 0.039).
A glucocorticoid receptor haplotype that confers increased sensitivity to glucocorticoids appears to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, but only among younger men and less educated individuals, suggesting gene–environment interactions.
Paul G Voorhoeve, Elisabeth F C van Rossum, Saskia J te Velde, Jan W Koper, Han C G Kemper, Steven W J Lamberts, and Henriette A Delemarre-van de Waal
Objective: A polymorphism near the promoter region of the IGF-I gene has been associated with serum IGF-I levels, body height and birth weight. In this study, we investigated whether this polymorphism is associated with body composition in young healthy subjects in two cohorts of different generations.
Design: Observational study with repeated measurements.
Methods: The study group consisted of two comparable young Dutch cohorts with a generational difference of around 20 years. The older cohort consisted of 359 subjects born between 1961 and 1965. Measurements were performed from 13 until 36 years of age. The younger cohort consisted of 258 subjects born between 1981 and 1989. Measurements were performed from 8 until 14 years of age. Height, body mass index (BMI), fat mass, fat-free mass, waist and hip circumference were compared between wild-type carriers and variant type carriers of the IGF-I polymorphism.
Results: In the younger cohort, body weight, BMI, fat mass and waist circumference were significantly higher in female variant carriers of the IGF-I polymorphism. A similar trend was observed in male variant carriers. In contrast, these differences were not observed in the older cohort. Irrespective of genotype, the younger cohort showed a significantly higher total fat mass, body weight and BMI compared with the older cohort.
Conclusions: Because the differences between both genotypes were small, it seems likely that the genetic variability due to this IGF-I polymorphism impacts only slightly on body composition. Importantly, our study suggested that associations between this IGF-I promoter polymorphism and body composition possibly reflect a gene–environmental interaction of this polymorphism and that an environment that promotes obesity leads to a slightly more pronounced fat accumulation in variant carriers of this IGF-I polymorphism.
Vincent L Wester, Martin Reincke, Jan W Koper, Erica L T van den Akker, Laura Manenschijn, Christina M Berr, Julia Fazel, Yolanda B de Rijke, Richard A Feelders, and Elisabeth F C van Rossum
Current first-line screening tests for Cushing’s syndrome (CS) only measure time-point or short-term cortisol. Hair cortisol content (HCC) offers a non-invasive way to measure long-term cortisol exposure over several months of time. We aimed to evaluate HCC as a screening tool for CS.
Case-control study in two academic referral centers for CS.
Between 2009 and 2016, we collected scalp hair from patients suspected of CS and healthy controls. HCC was measured using ELISA. HCC was available in 43 confirmed CS patients, 35 patients in whom the diagnosis CS was rejected during diagnostic work-up and follow-up (patient controls), and 174 healthy controls. Additionally, we created HCC timelines in two patients with ectopic CS.
CS patients had higher HCC than patient controls and healthy controls (geometric mean 106.9 vs 12.7 and 8.4 pg/mg respectively, P < 0.001). At a cut-off of 31.1 pg/mg, HCC could differentiate between CS patients and healthy controls with a sensitivity of 93% and a specificity of 90%. With patient controls as a reference, specificity remained the same (91%). Within CS patients, HCC correlated significantly with urinary free cortisol (r = 0.691, P < 0.001). In two ectopic CS patients, HCC timelines indicated that cortisol was increased 3 and 6 months before CS became clinically apparent.
Analysis of cortisol in a single scalp hair sample offers diagnostic accuracy for CS similar to currently used first-line tests, and can be used to investigate cortisol exposure in CS patients months to years back in time, enabling the estimation of disease onset.
Dirk van Moorsel, Marleen M J van Greevenbroek, Nicolaas C Schaper, Ronald M A Henry, Charlotte C Geelen, Elisabeth F C van Rossum, Giel Nijpels, Leen M 't Hart, Casper G Schalkwijk, Carla J H van der Kallen, Hans P Sauerwein, Jacqueline M Dekker, Coen D A Stehouwer, and Bas Havekes
Excess glucocorticoids are known to cause hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD). The BclI glucocorticoid receptor (GR) polymorphism increases glucocorticoid sensitivity and is associated with adverse metabolic effects. Previous studies investigating cardiovascular implications have shown inconsistent results. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to investigate the association of the BclI polymorphism with blood pressure, atherosclerosis, low-grade inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and prevalent CVD.
Observational cohort study, combining two cohort studies designed to investigate genetic and metabolic determinants of CVD.
We genotyped 1228 individuals (aged 64.7 years±8.5) from the Cohort on Diabetes and Atherosclerosis Maastricht (CODAM) study and Hoorn study for the BclI polymorphism. We measured blood pressure, ankle–brachial index (ABI), and carotid intima–media thickness (cIMT). Low-grade inflammation and endothelial dysfunction scores were computed by averaging Z-scores of six low-grade inflammation markers and four endothelial dysfunction markers respectively. Prevalent CVD was assessed with questionnaires, hospital records, ECG, and ABI.
Homozygous carriers (GG) had higher mean arterial pressure (103.8±12.4 mmHg vs 101.6±12.2 mmHg (mean±s.d.); P<0.05) compared with non-carriers (CC). Homozygous carriers had lower ABI compared with heterozygous carriers (CG) (1.08±0.13 vs 1.11±0.14; P<0.05). After adjustment for all covariates in the full model, the association with ABI was no longer significant. BclI was not associated with systolic blood pressure, cIMT, low-grade inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, and prevalent CVD.
The BclI polymorphism of the GR gene may contribute to an unfavorable cardiovascular profile; however, the effects on cardiovascular variables appear to be limited and partly mediated by the metabolic phenotype exerted by BclI.
Eline S van der Valk, Bibian van der Voorn, Anand M Iyer, Sjoerd A A van den Berg, Mesut Savas, Yolanda B de Rijke, Erica L T van den Akker, Olle Melander, and Elisabeth F C van Rossum
Obesity and cardiometabolic diseases are associated with higher long-term glucocorticoid levels, measured as scalp hair cortisol (HairF) and cortisone (HairE). Cardiometabolic diseases have also been associated with copeptin, a stable surrogate marker for the arginine-vasopressin (AVP) system. Since AVP is, together with corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) an important regulator of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis (HPA axis), we hypothesize that AVP contributes to chronic hypercortisolism in obesity.
To investigate whether copeptin levels are associated with Higher HairF and HairE levels in obesity.
A cross-sectional study in 51 adults with obesity (BMI ≥30 kg/m2).
Associations and interactions between copeptin, HairF, HairE, and cardiometabolic parameters were cross-sectionally analyzed.
Copeptin was strongly associated with BMI and waist circumference (WC) (rho = 0.364 and 0.530, P = 0.008 and <0.001, respectively), also after correction for confounders. There were no associations between copeptin and HairF or HairE on a continuous or dichotomized scale, despite correction for confounders.
In patients with obesity, AVP seems not a major contributor to the frequently observed high cortisol levels. Other factors which stimulate the HPA axis or affect cortisol synthesis or breakdown may be more important than the influence of AVP on long-term glucocorticoid levels in obesity.
Lotte Kleinendorst, Ozair Abawi, Hetty J van der Kamp, Mariëlle Alders, Hanne E J Meijers-Heijboer, Elisabeth F C van Rossum, Erica L T van den Akker, and Mieke M van Haelst
Leptin receptor (LepR) deficiency is an autosomal-recessive endocrine disorder causing early-onset severe obesity, hyperphagia and pituitary hormone deficiencies. As effective pharmacological treatment has recently been developed, diagnosing LepR deficiency is urgent. However, recognition is challenging and prevalence is unknown. We aim to elucidate the clinical spectrum and to estimate the prevalence of LepR deficiency in Europe.
Comprehensive epidemiologic analysis and systematic literature review.
We curated a list of LEPR variants described in patients and elaborately evaluated their phenotypes. Subsequently, we extracted allele frequencies from the Genome Aggregation Database (gnomAD), consisting of sequencing data of 77 165 European individuals. We then calculated the number of individuals with biallelic disease-causing LEPR variants.
Worldwide, 86 patients with LepR deficiency are published. We add two new patients, bringing the total of published patients to 88, of which 21 are European. All patients had early-onset obesity; 96% had hyperphagia; 34% had one or more pituitary hormone deficiencies. Our calculation results in 998 predicted patients in Europe, corresponding to a prevalence of 1.34 per 1 million people (95% CI: 0.95–1.72).
This study shows that LepR deficiency is more prevalent in Europe (n = 998 predicted patients) than currently known (n = 21 patients), suggesting that LepR deficiency is underdiagnosed. An important cause for this could be lack of access to genetic testing. Another possible explanation is insufficient recognition, as only one-third of patients has pituitary hormone deficiencies. With novel highly effective treatment emerging, diagnosing LepR deficiency is more important than ever.
Martin Reincke, Adriana Albani, Guillaume Assie, Irina Bancos, Thierry Brue, Michael Buchfelder, Olivier Chabre, Filippo Ceccato, Andrea Daniele, Mario Detomas, Guido Di Dalmazi, Atanaska Elenkova, James Findling, Ashley B Grossman, Celso E Gomez-Sanchez, Anthony P Heaney, Juergen Honegger, Niki Karavitaki, Andre Lacroix, Edward R Laws, Marco Losa, Masanori Murakami, John Newell-Price, Francesca Pecori Giraldi, Luis G Pérez‐Rivas, Rosario Pivonello, William E Rainey, Silviu Sbiera, Jochen Schopohl, Constantine A Stratakis, Marily Theodoropoulou, Elisabeth F C van Rossum, Elena Valassi, Sabina Zacharieva, German Rubinstein, and Katrin Ritzel
Corticotroph tumor progression (CTP) leading to Nelson’s syndrome (NS) is a severe and difficult-to-treat complication subsequent to bilateral adrenalectomy (BADX) for Cushing’s disease. Its characteristics are not well described, and consensus recommendations for diagnosis and treatment are missing.
A systematic literature search was performed focusing on clinical studies and case series (≥5 patients). Definition, cumulative incidence, treatment and long-term outcomes of CTP/NS after BADX were analyzed using descriptive statistics. The results were presented and discussed at an interdisciplinary consensus workshop attended by international pituitary experts in Munich on October 28, 2018.
Data covered definition and cumulative incidence (34 studies, 1275 patients), surgical outcome (12 studies, 187 patients), outcome of radiation therapy (21 studies, 273 patients), and medical therapy (15 studies, 72 patients).
We endorse the definition of CTP-BADX/NS as radiological progression or new detection of a pituitary tumor on thin-section MRI. We recommend surveillance by MRI after 3 months and every 12 months for the first 3 years after BADX. Subsequently, we suggest clinical evaluation every 12 months and MRI at increasing intervals every 2–4 years (depending on ACTH and clinical parameters). We recommend pituitary surgery as first-line therapy in patients with CTP-BADX/NS. Surgery should be performed before extrasellar expansion of the tumor to obtain complete and long-term remission. Conventional radiotherapy or stereotactic radiosurgery should be utilized as second-line treatment for remnant tumor tissue showing extrasellar extension