The mechanisms regulating cortisol production when ACTH of pituitary origin is suppressed in primary adrenal causes of Cushing's syndrome (CS) include diverse genetic and molecular mechanisms. These can lead either to constitutive activation of the cAMP system and steroidogenesis or to its regulation exerted by the aberrant adrenal expression of several hormone receptors, particularly G-protein coupled hormone receptors (GPCR) and their ligands. Screening for aberrant expression of GPCR in bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (BMAH) and unilateral adrenal tumors of patients with overt or subclinical CS demonstrates the frequent co-expression of several receptors. Aberrant hormone receptors can also exert their activity by regulating the paracrine secretion of ACTH or other ligands for those receptors in BMAH or unilateral tumors. The aberrant expression of hormone receptors is not limited to adrenal CS but can be implicated in other endocrine tumors including primary aldosteronism and Cushing's disease. Targeted therapies to block the aberrant receptors or their ligands could become useful in the future.
Nada El Ghorayeb, Isabelle Bourdeau and André Lacroix
Isabelle Bourdeau, Nada El Ghorayeb, Nadia Gagnon and André Lacroix
The investigation and management of unilateral adrenal incidentalomas have been extensively considered in the last decades. While bilateral adrenal incidentalomas represent about 15% of adrenal incidentalomas (AIs), they have been less frequently discussed. The differential diagnosis of bilateral incidentalomas includes metastasis, primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia and bilateral cortical adenomas. Less frequent etiologies are bilateral pheochromocytomas, congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), Cushing’s disease or ectopic ACTH secretion with secondary bilateral adrenal hyperplasia, primary malignancies, myelolipomas, infections or hemorrhage. The investigation of bilateral incidentalomas includes the same hormonal evaluation to exclude excess hormone secretion as recommended in unilateral AI, but diagnosis of CAH and adrenal insufficiency should also be excluded. This review is focused on the differential diagnosis, investigation and treatment of bilateral AIs.