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M. Pazzagli, D. Borrelli, G. Forti and M. Serio


Testosterone (T) and 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT) concentrations in spermatic and peripheral venous blood obtained from six men have been measured by radioimmunoassay and competitive protein binding assay respectively. The concentrations (mean ± sd) of DHT in the spermatic vein (0.64 ± 0.33 μg/100 ml) were higher than that found in the cubital vein (0.025 ± 0.01 μg/100 ml). These results demonstrate the production of DHT by the human testis.

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S Baglioni, G Corona, M Maggi, M Serio and A Peri

OBJECTIVE: Most mutations of the arginine vasopressin-neurophysin II (AVP-NPII) gene cause autosomal dominant familial neurohypophyseal diabetes insipidus (adFNDI). Such mutations are predicted to alter the three-dimensional structure of the prohormone, which accumulates in the cell body, ultimately leading to neuronal degeneration and hormonal deficit. In this study we describe the case of a 26-year-old female reporting a long-lasting history of polyuria/polydipsia. The father of the patient was affected by diabetes insipidus and was under desmopressin treatment until the time of his death. Nevertheless, the patient had never been subjected to endocrine evaluation. DESIGN AND METHODS: Clinical and genetic studies were performed. An 8-h fluid deprivation test plus desmopressin challenge and a 5% saline solution test were performed, in order to confirm the diagnosis. DNA was extracted from peripheral blood lymphocytes and subjected to direct sequencing of the entire coding region of the AVP-NPII gene. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Clinical assessment of the patient confirmed the diagnosis of neurohypophyseal diabetes insipidus. Desmopressin treatment was started, which effectively reversed the polyuria/ polydipsia syndrome. Genetic analysis revealed a novel mutation (1665T>A) in exon 2 of the AVP-NPII gene, disrupting one of the disulfide bonds present in the NPII moiety which play a fundamental role in determining the proper folding of the molecule. In summary, in the present study we have described a novel mutation of the AVP-NPII gene, which is consistent with the malfolding/toxicity hypothesis underlying the pathogenesis of adFNDI.

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E. Calabresi, G. Fiorelli, G. Forti, G. Lombardi, M. Pazzagli, E. Dell'Acqua and M. Serio


Androstenedione (Δ), oestradiol-17β (Oe2), 5α-dihydrotestosterone (DHT), progesterone (P) and testosterone (T) concentrations have been measured by radioimmunoassay in ovarian and peripheral venous blood from 15 women in the luteal phase of the cycle.

The ovarian blood samples were obtained during surgical intervention from 15 ovaries containing the corpus luteum and from 5 contralateral ovaries.

The mean concentration of DHT in ovarian venous blood was not higher than that found in the cubital vein.

However in some cases with high concentrations of testosterone in ovarian venous blood, a small but significant DHT gradient was found.

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A Peri, D Bemporad, G Parenti, P Luciani, M Serio and M Mannelli

OBJECTIVES: In about 15-20% of patients with ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome the source of ACTH is outside the pituitary gland. Pulmonary tumours are the most frequent, yet not unique, source of ectopic ACTH. In some instances the localisation of an ACTH-secreting tumour may be problematic. Occult ectopic ACTH secretion indicates the occurrence of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism with an unknown origin. Another peculiarity of Cushing's syndrome may reside in the episodic cortisol hypersecretion, which can determine a pattern characterised by hypercortisolism together with periods of remission (cyclic Cushing's syndrome). We describe a very challenging case of Cushing's syndrome due to ectopic ACTH hypersecretion, showing virtually all of the most unusual features of the disease. DESIGN: A 55-year-old woman affected by Cushing's syndrome, presenting with biochemical features of ectopic ACTH secretion, has been followed for 7 years. METHODS: Thorough basal and dynamic hormonal assessment through the past 7 years is reported. In addition, the results of extensive imaging studies are presented. RESULTS: The source of ACTH secretion has not been identified so far, and hypercortisolism has been controlled by octreotide treatment. In addition, the patient showed a cyclic pattern of hypercortisolism with a long-term remission period. A unique feature of this case is represented by the fact that we observed a temporary, yet dramatic, short-lasting remission of ACTH and cortisol hypersecretion during a pulmonary infection, which occurred while the patient was hospitalised for a periodic hormonal assessment. CONCLUSIONS: This case well represents the wide spectrum of clinical variability of Cushing's syndrome. Most interestingly, to our knowledge, this is the first report of a case of Cushing's syndrome showing a remission during an acute infection.

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C Crescioli, P Ferruzzi, A Caporali, M Scaltriti, S Bettuzzi, R Mancina, S Gelmini, M Serio, D Villari, GB Vannelli, E Colli, L Adorini and M Maggi

OBJECTIVE: Calcitriol analogues might represent an interesting new therapy for benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). We here report the preclinical characterization of BXL-628, an analogue selected for an ongoing double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled phase II trial in BPH. DESIGN: Experiments with BXL-628 were carried out in human BPH cells and in the ventral prostate of intact and castrated rats. METHODS: BPH cell and rat prostate growth were evaluated along with morphological and biochemical hallmarks of apoptosis. RESULTS: BXL-628 inhibited human BPH cell proliferation and induced apoptosis even in the presence of androgens or growth factors. It also decreased prostate growth to an extent similar to finasteride, inducing DNA fragmentation and apoptosis, both in intact and in testosterone-supplemented castrated rats. Accordingly, BXL-628, like finasteride, increased the expression of clusterin, a prostatic atrophy marker. However, BXL-628 did not inhibit 5 alpha-reductase 1 and 2, did not bind to the androgen receptor (AR) in BPH homogenates and did not affect AR-coupled luciferase activity. In addition, BXL-628 did not affect rat pituitary and testis activity or calcemia. CONCLUSIONS: BXL-628 inhibited in vitro and in vivo prostate cell proliferation, and therefore might represent a novel, interesting option for the treatment of BPH.

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A Peri, P Luciani, M Tonacchera, P Agretti, S Baglioni-Peri, L Buci, B Conforti, F Cioppi, G Biliotti, M Serio, P Vitti and L Chiovato

OBJECTIVE: The pathogenesis of thyroid hyperfunctioning adenomas is still only partially understood and controversy exists about the frequency of gain-of-function mutations of the TSH receptor or G(s)alpha gene, which activate the cAMP pathway. The nuclear transcription factors cAMP-responsive element binding protein (CREB) and inducible cAMP early repressor (ICER) are among the final targets of this signalling cascade. DESIGN: In our study we focused on the expression of CREB and ICER genes in the nodular as well as in the extranodular tissue of hyperfunctioning tumours of the thyroid. METHODS: RT-PCR and Western blot analysis were performed in a series of 14 patients. The presence of an activating mutation of the TSH receptor or of the G(s)alpha gene was ascertained by direct sequencing. RESULTS: The levels of CREB transcripts did not significantly differ in the adenomas and in the normal tissues (CREB/GAPDH, mean optical density+/-s.e.: 0.98+/-0.18 vs 0.88+/-0.27 respectively, P = not significant (N.S.)), although case-to-case variability was observed. The absence of a significant difference between the adenoma and the surrounding normal tissue was maintained after dividing the patients into two groups, according to TSH receptor status. Accordingly, no significant difference in the levels of CREB protein (total and Ser(133)-phosphorylated) was observed between the nodular and the extranodular tissue. In addition, no difference was found in the levels of ICER transcripts (ICER/GAPDH, mean optical density+/-s.e.: 0.52+/-0.11, nodule vs 0.36+/-0.11, normal thyroid, P=N.S.), independently of the TSH receptor gene status (i.e. wild-type or mutated). CONCLUSIONS: Our results support the recent hypothesis that the activation of the cAMP pathway in hyperfunctioning adenomas of the thyroid might be counteracted by opposite events and suggest that complex molecular mechanisms might take part in the pathogenesis of hyperfunctioning tumours.

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P Luciani, L Buci, B Conforti, M Tonacchera, P Agretti, R Elisei, A Vivaldi, F Cioppi, G Biliotti, G Manca, P Vitti, M Serio and A Peri

OBJECTIVE: Reduced expression or defective targeting of the sodium/iodide symporter (NIS) to the cell membrane in thyroid tumours has been reported. The expression of the NIS gene is up-regulated by TSH through the cAMP pathway and the characterization of the promoter region of the rat NIS gene revealed the existence of a degenerate cAMP response element (CRE) sequence. The cAMP-dependent transcription factor cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) binds to CRE acting, upon phosphorylation, as a transcriptional activator. In this study we evaluated the expression of CREB and NIS gene in thyroid non-functioning adenomas (n=18) and carcinomas (n=20), as well as in the corresponding normal tissue. METHODS: The levels of CREB and NIS mRNA were determined by quantitative real-time RT-PCR, whereas CREB protein (total and phosphorylated) was analyzed by Western blot. RESULTS: The levels of CREB mRNA in thyroid carcinomas, but not in adenomas, were significantly lower than in the corresponding normal tissue (4.63+/-0.89 vs 9.51+/-2.01 pg/microg total RNA, means+/-s.e., P=0.025). CREB protein levels, which were determined in a subset of samples, were in quite good agreement with mRNA data. NIS mRNA levels did not differ in adenomas or carcinomas, compared with the corresponding normal tissue and no significant relationship with the levels of CREB mRNA was observed. CONCLUSIONS: Our results have indicated for the first time that reduced levels of CREB expression are a feature of thyroid carcinomas, and confirm that different factors are likely to modulate NIS expression.