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Kazutaka Nanba and William E Rainey

Primary aldosteronism (PA) is a common cause of secondary hypertension. Recent technological advances in genetic analysis have provided a better understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of this disease. The application of next-generation sequencing has resulted in the identification of somatic mutations in aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA), a major subtype of PA. Based on the recent findings using a sequencing method that selectively targets the tumor region where aldosterone synthase (CYP11B2) is expressed, the vast majority of APAs appear to harbor a somatic mutation in one of the aldosterone-driver genes, including KCNJ5, ATP1A1, ATP2B3, CACNA1D, CACNA1H, and CLCN2. Mutations in these genes alter intracellular ion homeostasis and enhance aldosterone production. In a small subset of APAs, somatic activating mutations in the CTNNB1 gene, which encodes β-catenin, have also been detected. Accumulating evidence suggests that race and sex impact the somatic mutation spectrum of APA. Specifically, somatic mutations in the KCNJ5 gene, encoding an inwardly rectifying K+ channel, are common in APAs from Asian populations as well as women regardless of race. Associations between APA histology, genotype, and patient clinical characteristics have also been proposed, suggesting a potential need to consider race and sex for management of PA patients. Herein, we review recent findings regarding somatic mutations in APA and discuss potential roles of race and sex on the pathophysiology of APA as well as possible clinical implications.

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Kazutaka Nanba, Kei Omata, Scott A Tomlins, Thomas J Giordano, Gary D Hammer, William E Rainey, and Tobias Else


Co-secretion of cortisol and aldosterone can be observed in adrenal adenomas. The aim of this study was to investigate the molecular characteristics of a co-existing aldosterone- and a cortisol-producing adenoma (CPA) in the same patient.

Design and methods

Two different adenomas within the same adrenal gland from a 49-year-old female patient with primary aldosteronism (PA) and Cushing's syndrome (CS) were studied. Multiple formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor blocks were used for the analysis. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) was performed using a specific antibody against aldosterone synthase (CYP11B2). DNA and RNA were isolated separately from CYP11B2-positive and -negative tumor regions based on CYP11B2 IHC results.


CYP11B2 IHC clearly demonstrated that three pieces from one adenoma were positive for CYP11B2 and the remaining three from the other adenoma were negative for CYP11B2. In quantitative real-time RT-PCR, CYP11B2 mRNA was upregulated in CYP11B2-positive tumor specimens (219-fold vs CYP11B2-negative tumor specimens). Targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS) detected novel KCNJ5 gene mutations (p.T148I/T149S, present in the same reads) and a PRKACA gene hotspot mutation (p.L206R) in the CYP11B2-positive and -negative tumors, respectively. Sanger sequencing of DNA from each tumor specimen (CYP11B2-positive tumor, n=3; CYP11B2-negative tumor, n=3) showed concordant results with targeted NGS.


Our findings illustrate the co-existence of two different adrenocortical adenomas causing the concurrent diagnosis of PA and CS in the same patient. Molecular analysis was able to demonstrate that the two diseases resulted from independent somatic mutations seen in double adrenocortical adenomas.