Macrolides Blunt Aldosterone Biosynthesis: A Proof-of-Concept Study in KCNJ5 Mutated Adenoma Cells Ex Vivo

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Aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA), a major subtype of primary hyperaldosteronism, the main curable cause of human endocrine hypertension, involves somatic mutations in the potassium channel Kir3.4 (KCNJ5) in 30% to 70% of cases, typically the more florid phenotypes. Because KCNJ5 mutated channels were reported to be specifically sensitive to inhibition by macrolide antibiotics, which concentration dependently blunts aldosterone production in HAC15 transfected with the G151R and L168R mutated channel, we herein tested the effect of clarithromycin on aldosterone synthesis and secretion in a pure population of aldosterone-secreting cells obtained by immunoseparation (CD56+ cells) from APA tissues with/without the 2 most common KCNJ5 mutations. From a large cohort of patients with an unambiguous APA diagnosis, we recruited those who were wild type (n=3) or had G151R (n=2) and L168R (n=2) mutations. We found that clarithromycin concentration dependently lowered CYP11B2 gene expression (by 60%) and aldosterone secretion (by 70%; P<0.001 for both) in CD56+ cells isolated ex vivo from KCNJ5 mutated APAs, although it was ineffective in CD56+ cells from wild-type APAs. By proving the principle that the oversecretion of aldosterone can be specifically blunted in APA cells ex vivo with G151R and L168R mutations, these results provide compelling evidence of the possibility of specifically correcting aldosterone excess in patients with APA carrying the 2 most common KCNJ5 somatic mutations.

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