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F Fallo, V Pezzi, L Barzon, P Mulatero, F Veglio, N Sonino and JM Mathis

BACKGROUND: The presence and pathophysiological role of CYP11B1 (11beta-hydroxylase) gene in the zona glomerulosa of human adrenal cortex is still controversial. METHODS: In order to specifically quantify CYP11B1, CYP11B2 (aldosterone synthase) and CYP17(17alpha-hydroxylase) mRNA levels, we developed a real-time RT-PCR assay and examined the expression in a series of adrenal tIssues, including six normal adrenals from patients adrenalectomized for renal cancer and twelve aldosterone-producing adenomas (APA) from patients with primary aldosteronism. RESULTS: CYP11B1 mRNA levels were clearly detected in normal adrenals, which comprised both zona glomerulosa and fasciculata/reticularis cells, but were also measured at a lower range (P<0.05) in APA. The levels of CYP11B2 mRNA were lower (P<0.005) in normal adrenals than in APA. CYP17 mRNAlevels were similar in normal adrenals and in APA. In patients with APA, CYP11B2 and CYP11B1 mRNA levels were not correlated either with basal aldosterone or with the change from basal aldosterone in response to posture or to dexamethasone. No correlation between CYP11B1 mRNA or CYP11B2 mRNA and the percentage of zona fasciculata-like cells was observed in APA. CONCLUSIONS: Real-time RT-PCR can be reliably used to quantify CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 mRNA levels in adrenal tIssues. Expression of CYP11B1 in hyperfunctioning zona glomerulosa suggests an additional formation of corticosterone via 11beta-hydroxylase, providing further substrate for aldosterone biosynthesis. CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 mRNA levels in APA are not related to the in vivo secretory activity of glomerulosa cells, where post-transcriptional factors might ultimately regulate aldosterone production.

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P Mulatero, N Glorioso, F Fallo, A Soro, S Morra di Cella, R Carra, F Filigheddu and F Veglio

OBJECTIVE: 11beta-Hydroxylase and aldosterone synthase are two highly homologous genes involved in different forms of human hypertension and in different animal models of hypertension. It has been shown that the conservative substitution D147E in the human CYP11B2 gene results in an increased production of corticosterone and aldosterone in vitro. A gene conversion between the CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 genes could be responsible for such a substitution. METHODS: In this study we investigated the presence of the mutation D147E of CYP11B2 in a group of 128 patients with primary aldosteronism, 68 patients with essential hypertension and increased corticosterone production and in 48 normal volunteers. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: We did not identify any patient carrying this mutation, indicating that if it exists it is very rare and so has no relevance in determining the increased steroid excretion seen in some subtypes of human hypertension.

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F Morello, D Schiavone, G Mengozzi, C Bertello, C C Liew, D Bisbocci, P Mulatero and F Veglio

Background

Endothelin-1 (ET-1) may function as an aldosterone secretagogue and, in turn, aldosterone can upregulate ET-1 expression. Hence, the existence of a feedforward loop involving ETs and aldosterone has been speculated in primary aldosteronism (PA). In the present study, we sought to examine ET-1 secretion from the adrenal glands in patients with PA.

Design

We determined ET-1 levels in blood samples obtained during adrenal venous sampling of patients affected by PA (n=17). Furthermore, we examined the mRNA expression of the ET system in tissue samples from aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs, n=9) and control normal adrenals (n=3).

Methods

Blood ET-1 levels were determined by RIA. Tissue mRNA expression of the ET system was assayed with Affymetrix microarrays.

Results

ET-1 levels did not differ between inferior vena cava and adrenal vein blood in both bilateral adrenal hyperplasia and APA patients. Moreover, cortisol-normalized ET-1 levels did not show lateralized adrenal ET-1 secretion in APAs. Through gene expression profiling with microarray performed in a distinct set of APA individuals (n=9), we confirmed the adrenal expression of a complete ET system, but we did not detect a significant upregulation of ET components within the APA tissue compared with normal adrenals.

Conclusions

The present data argue against the hypothesis of increased ET-1 secretion from APAs and do not support a general role for adrenal ET-1 in the vascular pathophysiology of PA.