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Guido Di Dalmazi, Marcus Quinkler, Timo Deutschbein, Cornelia Prehn, Nada Rayes, Matthias Kroiss, Christina M Berr, Günter Stalla, Martin Fassnacht, Jerzy Adamski, Martin Reincke and Felix Beuschlein

Objective

Endogenous hypercortisolism is a chronic condition associated with severe metabolic disturbances and cardiovascular sequela. The aim of this study was to characterize metabolic alterations in patients with different degrees of hypercortisolism by mass-spectrometry-based targeted plasma metabolomic profiling and correlate the metabolomic profile with clinical and hormonal data.

Design

Cross-sectional study.

Methods

Subjects (n = 149) were classified according to clinical and hormonal characteristics: Cushing’s syndrome (n = 46), adrenocortical adenomas with autonomous cortisol secretion (n = 31) or without hypercortisolism (n = 27). Subjects with suspicion of hypercortisolism, but normal hormonal/imaging testing, served as controls (n = 42). Clinical and hormonal data were retrieved for all patients and targeted metabolomic profiling was performed.

Results

Patients with hypercortisolism showed lower levels of short-/medium-chain acylcarnitines and branched-chain and aromatic amino acids, but higher polyamines levels, in comparison to controls. These alterations were confirmed after excluding diabetic patients. Regression models showed significant correlation between cortisol after dexamethasone suppression test (DST) and 31 metabolites, independently of confounding/contributing factors. Among those, histidine and spermidine were also significantly associated with catabolic signs and symptoms of hypercortisolism. According to an discriminant analysis, the panel of metabolites was able to correctly classify subjects into the main diagnostic categories and to distinguish between subjects with/without altered post-DST cortisol and with/without diabetes in >80% of the cases.

Conclusions

Metabolomic profiling revealed alterations of intermediate metabolism independently associated with the severity of hypercortisolism, consistent with disturbed protein synthesis/catabolism and incomplete β-oxidation, providing evidence for the occurrence of metabolic inflexibility in hypercortisolism.

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Zoran Erlic, Max Kurlbaum, Timo Deutschbein, Svenja Nölting, Aleksander Prejbisz, Henri Timmers, Susan Richter, Cornelia Prehn, Dirk Weismann, Jerzy Adamski, Andrzej Januszewicz, Martin Reincke, Martin Fassnacht, Mercedes Robledo, Graeme Eisenhofer, Felix Beuschlein and Matthias Kroiss

Objective

Excess catecholamine release by pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGL) leads to characteristic clinical features and increased morbidity and mortality. The influence of PPGLs on metabolism is ill described but may impact diagnosis and management. The objective of this study was to systematically and quantitatively study PPGL-induced metabolic changes at a systems level.

Design

Targeted metabolomics by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry of plasma specimens in a clinically well-characterized prospective cohort study.

Methods

Analyses of metabolic profiles of plasma specimens from 56 prospectively enrolled and clinically well-characterized patients (23 males, 33 females) with catecholamine-producing PPGL before and after surgery, as well as measurement of 24-h urinary catecholamine using LC-MS/MS.

Results

From 127 analyzed metabolites, 15 were identified with significant changes before and after surgery: five amino acids/biogenic amines (creatinine, histidine, ornithine, sarcosine, tyrosine) and one glycerophospholipid (PCaeC34:2) with increased concentrations and six glycerophospholipids (PCaaC38:1, PCaaC42:0, PCaeC40:2, PCaeC42:5, PCaeC44:5, PCaeC44:6), two sphingomyelins (SMC24:1, SMC26:1) and hexose with decreased levels after surgery. Patients with a noradrenergic tumor phenotype had more pronounced alterations compared to those with an adrenergic tumor phenotype. Weak, but significant correlations for 8 of these 15 metabolites with total urine catecholamine levels were identified.

Conclusions

This first large prospective metabolomics analysis of PPGL patients demonstrates broad metabolic consequences of catecholamine excess. Robust impact on lipid and amino acid metabolism may contribute to increased morbidity of PPGL patients.