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C. Marcocci, L. Bartalena, F. Bogazzi, M. Panicucci and A. Pinchera

Abstract. Eye disease was associated with hyperthyroidism in 202 of 221 patients with active Graves' ophthalmopathy (91.4%) and was not accompanied by thyroid hyperfunction (euthyroid Graves' disease) in the remaining 19 (8.6%). All the latter patients had some mild thyroid abnormalities (thyroid autoantibodies, negative TRH test, negative T3 suppression test, goitre). Sex distribution analysis evidenced a higher prevalence in females with a female/male ratio of 2.1 which was, however, significantly lower (P < 0.05) than that observed in control (Graves' disease patients without overt ophthalmopathy (female/male ratio = 3.4)). Patients with euthyroid Graves' disease showed a female/male ratio of 0.7. Age distribution revealed a peak prevalence in the 5th decade of life, identical to that of Graves' disease without ophthalmopathy. A close temporal relationship between the onset of hyperthyroidism and the onset of ophthalmopathy was found, since in about 85% of the patients the first ocular manifestations occurred within ±18 months around the onset of hyperthyroidism.

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L Bartalena, F Bogazzi, S Brogioni, L Grasso and E Martino

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F Bogazzi, L Bartalena, S Brogioni, A Burelli, F Raggi, F Ultimieri, C Cosci, M Vitale, G Fenzi and E Martino

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the molecular mechanisms of the inhibitory effects of amiodarone and its active metabolite, desethylamiodarone (DEA) on thyroid hormone action. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The reporter construct ME-TRE-TK-CAT or TSHbeta-TRE-TK-CAT, containing the nucleotide sequence of the thyroid hormone response element (TRE) of either malic enzyme (ME) or TSHbeta genes, thymidine kinase (TK) and chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) was transiently transfected with RSV-TRbeta into NIH3T3 cells. Gel mobility shift assay (EMSA) was performed using labelled synthetic oligonucleotides containing the ME-TRE and in vitro translated thyroid hormone receptor (TR)beta. RESULTS: Addition of 1 micromol/l T4 or T3 to the culture medium increased the basal level of ME-TRE-TK-CAT by 4.5- and 12.5-fold respectively. Amiodarone or DEA (1 micromol/l) increased CAT activity by 1.4- and 3.4-fold respectively. Combination of DEA with T4 or T3 increased CAT activity by 9.4- and 18.9-fold respectively. These data suggested that DEA, but not amiodarone, had a synergistic effect with thyroid hormone on ME-TRE, rather than the postulated inhibitory action; we supposed that this was due to overexpression of the transfected TR into the cells. When the amount of RSV-TRbeta was reduced until it was present in a limited amount, allowing competition between thyroid hormone and the drug, addition of 1 micromol/l DEA decreased the T3-dependent expression of the reporter gene by 50%. The inhibitory effect of DEA was partially due to a reduced binding of TR to ME-TRE, as assessed by EMSA. DEA activated the TR-dependent down-regulation by the negative TSH-TRE, although at low level (35% of the down-regulation produced by T3), whereas amiodarone was ineffective. Addition of 1 micromol/l DEA to T3-containing medium reduced the T3-TR-mediated down-regulation of TSH-TRE to 55%. CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that DEA, but not amiodarone, exerts a direct, although weak, effect on genes that are regulated by thyroid hormone. High concentrations of DEA antagonize the action of T3 at the molecular level, interacting with TR and reducing its binding to TREs. This effect may contribute to the hypothyroid-like effect observed in peripheral tissues of patients receiving amiodarone treatment.

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F Bogazzi, L Bartalena, S Brogioni, A Burelli, L Manetti, ML Tanda, M Gasperi and E Martino

OBJECTIVE: Thyroid blood flow is greatly enhanced in untreated Graves' disease, but it is not known whether it is due to thyroid hormone excess or to thyroid hyperstimulation by TSH-receptor antibody. To address this issue in vivo patients with different thyroid disorders were submitted to color flow doppler sonography (CFDS). SUBJECTS AND METHODS: We investigated 24 normal subjects, and 78 patients with untreated hyperthyroidism (49 with Graves' hyperthyroidism, 24 with toxic adenoma, and 5 patients with TSH-secreting pituitary adenoma (TSHoma)), 19 patients with thyrotoxicosis (7 with thyrotoxicosis factitia, and 12 with subacute thyroiditis), 37 euthyroid patients with goitrous Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and 21 untreated hypothyroid patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis. RESULTS: Normal subjects had CFDS pattern 0 (absent or minimal intraparenchimal spots) and mean intraparenchimal peak systolic velocity (PSV) of 4.8+/-1.2cm/s. Patients with spontaneous hyperthyroidism due to Graves' disease, TSHoma, and toxic adenoma had significantly increased PSV (P<0.0001, P=0.0004, P<0.0001 respectively vs controls) and CFDS pattern. Patients with Graves' disease had CFDS pattern II (mild increase of color flow doppler signal) in 10 (20%) and pattern III (marked increase) in 39 cases (80%). Mean PSV was 15+/-3cm/s. Patients with toxic adenoma had CFDS pattern I (presence of parenchymal blood flow with patchy uneven distribution) in 2 (8%), pattern II in 16 (70%) and pattern III in 5 (22%). Mean PSV was 11+/-2.4cm/s. Patients with TSHoma showed CFDS pattern I in one case (20%) and pattern II in 4 (80%). Mean PSV was 14.8+/-4.2cm/s. Patients with thyrotoxicosis had normal PSV (4.2+/-1. 1cm/s in subacute thyroiditis, 4+/-0.8cm/s in thyrotoxicosis factitia, P=not significant vs controls) and CFDS pattern 0. Untreated euthyroid patients with goitrous Hashimoto's thyroiditis had CFDS pattern 0, and mean PSV (4.3+/-0.9cm/s; P=not significant vs controls). Untreated hypothyroid patients with goitrous Hashimoto's thyroiditis had CFDS pattern I in 14 cases (67%), pattern II in 4 (19%) and pattern 0 in 3 (14%) and mean PSV (5.6+/-1. 4cm/s) was higher than that of controls (P=0.026). CONCLUSIONS: An increase in both intrathyroidal vascularity and blood velocity was observed in patients with spontaneous hyperthyroidism but not in thyrotoxicosis due to either ingestion of thyroid hormones or to a thyroidal destructive process. The slightly increased vascularity and blood velocity observed in patients with hypothyroid Hashimoto's thyroiditis suggests that thyroid stimulation by either TSH-receptor antibody or TSH is responsible for the increased thyroid blood flow.

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C Urbani, C Sardella, A Calevro, G Rossi, I Scattina, M Lombardi, I Lupi, L Manetti, E Martino and F Bogazzi

Objective

Abnormalities of glucose metabolism are common findings of acromegaly. However, robust evidence on whether therapy with somatostatin analogs (SSAs) or pegvisomant (PEG) differently affects glucose metabolism is lacking. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of therapy with SSAs, PEG, or their combination on glucose metabolism in a large series of acromegalic patients.

Design

This was a historical–prospective study. Among 50 consecutive acromegalic patients under SSA therapy, acromegaly in 19 patients was controlled. PEG used in combination with SSA therapy allowed the control of acromegaly in the remaining 31 patients and was then continued as monotherapy in 18 patients.

Methods

The following parameters were evaluated at the diagnosis of acromegaly and during different treatments: fasting plasma glucose (FPG) and insulin concentrations, insulin sensitivity (QUICK-I), homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA2-IR), and plasma glucose and insulin concentrations during the oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). Comparison was made using analysis for paired data.

Results

Insulin resistance improved when acromegaly was controlled with therapy with SSAs, PEG, or SSA+PEG. However, FPG concentrations were higher during SSA therapy (alone or combined with PEG) than at the diagnosis of acromegaly, even when corrected for disease activity, whereas they were reduced during PEG therapy. Mean glucose concentrations during the OGTT were higher in patients receiving SSA therapy than in those receiving PEG therapy. In addition, the prevalence of diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance was higher during SSA therapy than at diagnosis or during PEG therapy and was not influenced by disease control.

Conclusions

Medical therapies for acromegaly reduce insulin resistance and increase insulin sensitivity; on the contrary, glucose indexes may be differently affected by SSA or PEG therapy.

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F Bogazzi, F Ultimieri, F Raggi, D Russo, R Vanacore, C Guida, P Viacava, D Cecchetti, G Acerbi, S Brogioni, C Cosci, M Gasperi, L Bartalena and E Martino

OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study was to evaluate the expression and functional activity of Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) gamma in pituitary adenomas from 14 consecutive acromegalic patients and to establish its role in apoptosis. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Fourteen consecutive acromegalic patients were enrolled in the study. Wistar-Furth rats were used for in vivo studies. Expression of PPARgamma was evaluated by RT-PCR and Western blot. Apoptosis and cell cycle were assessed by FACS analysis. The effects of PPARgamma ligands on transcriptional regulation of GH gene were evaluated by RT-PCR and electromobility shift assay. RESULTS: PPARgamma was expressed in all human GH-secreting adenoma (GH-oma), in normal pituitary tissue samples (39+/-24% and 78+/-5% of immunostained nuclei respectively; P<0.0002; ANOVA), and in rat GH-secreting (GH3) cells. A PPRE-containing reporter plasmid transfected into GH3 cells was activated by ciglitazone or rosiglitazone (TZDs), indicating that PPARgamma was functionally active. Treatment of GH3 cells with TZDs increased apoptosis in a dose-dependent manner (P=0.0003) and arrested cell proliferation, reducing the number of cells in the S-phase (P<0.0001 vs untreated cells). TZDs increased the expression of TRAIL, leaving unaffected that of p53 and Bax. TZDs reduced GH concentrations in the culture media from 43.7+/-5.4 ng/ml to 2.1+/-0.3 ng/ml (P<0.0001) and in cell extracts (P<0.004). PPARgamma-RXRalpha heterodimers bound to GH promoter, inhibiting its activity and reducing GH mRNA levels (1.8 x 10(6) vs 5.7 x 10(6) transcripts respectively vs untreated cells; P<0.002). Subcutaneous GH-oma developed in rats injected with GH3 cells; tumor growth increased in placebo-treated rats and to a lesser extent in TZDs-treated animals (24.1+/-2.0 g, and 14.8+/-4.2 g respectively, P<0.03). Serum GH concentrations were lower in TZDs-treated rats than in controls (871+/-67 ng/ml vs 1.309+/-238 ng/ml; P<0.05). CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study indicate that PPARgamma controls GH transcription and secretion as well as apoptosis and growth of GH-oma; thus, TZDs have the potential of a useful tool in the complex therapeutic management of acromegalic patients.

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T Rago, P Vitti, L Chiovato, S Mazzeo, A De Liperi, P Miccoli, P Viacava, F Bogazzi, E Martino and A Pinchera

The aim of the present study was to establish the usefulness of conventional thyroid ultrasonography (US) and color flow-doppler (CFD) sonography in the assessment of 'cold' thyroid nodules. One hundred and four consecutive patients with thyroid nodules who were to undergo surgery were examined by US and CFD before thyroidectomy. Conventional US evaluated the presence of a halo sign, hypoechogenicity and microcalcifications. The vascular pattern on CFD was classified as follows: Type I, absence of blood flow; Type II, perinodular blood flow; Type III, marked intranodular blood flow. On histology, 30 nodules were diagnosed as malignant (carcinoma, CA) and 74 as benign nodules (BN). On US, the echographic pattern most predictive for malignancy was absent halo sign, which was found in 20/30 CA and in 17/72 BN (P = 0.0001; specificity 77.0%; sensitivity 66.6%). The most specific combination on US, absent halo sign/microcalcifications, was found in 8/30 CA and in 5/74 BN (P < 0.005; specificity 93.2%, sensitivity 26.6%). The Type III pattern on CFD was found in 20/30 CA and 38/74 BN (not statistically significant). The combination of absent halo sign on US with Type III pattern on CFD was found in 15/30 CA and in 8/74 BN (P < 0.0001; specificity 89.0%, sensitivity 50.0%). The combination of absent halo sign/microcalcifications on US with Type III pattern on CFD was the most specific combination of the two techniques, being found in 5/30 CA and in only 2/74 BN (P < 0.01; specificity 97.2%, sensitivity 16.6%). In conclusion, findings on US and CFD become highly predictive for malignancy only when multiple signs are simultaneously present in a thyroid nodule. Thus the predictive value of these techniques increases at the expense of their sensitivity. Only in a small proportion of patients with thyroid carcinoma is US and CFD information highly predictive of malignancy.

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M Filopanti, A M Barbieri, G Mantovani, S Corbetta, V Gasco, M Ragonese, C Martini, F Bogazzi, A Colao, D Ferone, A Peri, F Pigliaru, G Angeletti, M Arosio, P Beck-Peccoz, A G Lania and A Spada

Context

Hepatotoxicity is one of the most serious adverse effects in acromegalic patients treated with pegvisomant (PEG-V). Recent studies have found an association between this adverse event and the UGT1A1 allele 28 polymorphism associated with Gilbert's syndrome.

Objective

To determine whether UGT1A1*28 and alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) polymorphisms influence liver toxicity during PEG-V treatment.

Design and setting

Multicenter observational retrospective study conducted in 13 tertiary care endocrinology units in Italy.

Patients

A total of 112 patients with active disease resistant to somatostatin analogs (SSTa) and 108 controls were enrolled.

Interventions

Clinical and biochemical data were recorded by electronic clinical reporting forms. Blood or DNA samples were sent to the coordinating center for genotyping.

Results

No differences in genotypes between patients and controls were found. During PEG-V therapy liver function tests (LFT), abnormalities and overt hepatotoxicity developed in 17 and 4.5% of patients respectively. Logistic and linear regression analyses showed an association between LFT abnormalities during the follow-up visit and prior events of LFT abnormalities in medical history (odds ratio=1.25; P=0.04) and the number of concomitant medications, other than SSTa (B=3.9; P=0.03). No correlation between LFT alterations and UGT1A1 allele 28 as well as ADH1C and B polymorphisms was found.

Conclusions

UGT1A1 allele 28 and ADH1C and B polymorphisms do not predict increased risk of hepatotoxicity during PEG-V therapy. Conversely, patients with multi-therapies and with previous episodes of liver disease should be carefully managed, due to the observed association between these conditions and LFT abnormalities during PEG-V therapy.