Prevalence, Clinical, and Molecular Correlates of KCNJ5 Mutations in Primary Aldosteronism

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Primary aldosteronism is the most common form of secondary hypertension. Mutations in the KCNJ5 gene have been described recently in aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs). The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of KCNJ5 mutations in unselected patients with primary aldosteronism and their clinical, biological and molecular correlates. KCNJ5 sequencing was performed on somatic (APA, n=380) and peripheral (APA, n=344; bilateral adrenal hyperplasia, n=174) DNA of patients with primary aldosteronism, collected through the European Network for the Study of Adrenal Tumors. Transcriptome analysis was performed in 102 tumors. Somatic KCNJ5 mutations (p.Gly151Arg or p.Leu168Arg) were found in 34% (129 of 380) of APA. They were significantly more prevalent in females (49%) than males (19%; P<10−3) and in younger patients (42.1±1.0 versus 47.6±0.7 years; P<10−3) and were associated with higher preoperative aldosterone levels (455±26 versus 376±17 ng/L; P=0.012) but not with therapeutic outcome after surgery. Germline KCNJ5 mutations were found neither in patients with APA nor those with bilateral adrenal hyperplasia. Somatic KCNJ5 mutations were specific for APA, because they were not identified in 25 peritumoral adrenal tissues or 16 cortisol-producing adenomas. Hierarchical clustering of transcriptome profiles showed that APAs with p.Gly151Arg or p.Leu168Arg mutations were indistinguishable from tumors without KCNJ5 mutations. In conclusion, although a large proportion of sporadic APAs harbors somatic KCNJ5 mutations, germline mutations are not similarly causative for bilateral adrenal hyperplasia. KCNJ5 mutation carriers are more likely to be females; younger age and higher aldosterone levels at diagnosis suggest that KCNJ5 mutations may be associated with a more florid phenotype of primary aldosteronism.

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