Adrenal Nodularity and Somatic Mutations in Primary Aldosteronism: One Node Is the Culprit?

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Abstract

Context:

Somatic mutations in genes that influence cell entry of calcium have been identified in aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs) of adrenal cortex in primary aldosteronism (PA). Many adrenal glands removed for suspicion of APA do not contain a single adenoma but nodular hyperplasia.

Objective:

The objective of the study was to assess multinodularity and phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of adrenals removed because of the suspicion of APAs.

Design and Methods:

We assessed the adrenals of 53 PA patients for histopathological characteristics and immunohistochemistry for aldosterone (P450C18) and cortisol (P450C11) synthesis and for KCNJ5, ATP1A1, ATP2B3, and CACNA1D mutations in microdissected nodi.

Results:

Glands contained a solitary adenoma in 43% and nodular hyperplasia in 53% of cases. Most adrenal glands contained only one nodule positive for P450C18 expression, with all other nodules negative. KCNJ5 mutations were present in 22 of 53 adrenals (13 adenoma and nine multinodular adrenals). An ATP1A1 and a CACNA1D mutation were found in one multinodular gland each and an ATP2B3 mutation in five APA-containing glands. Mutations were always located in the P450C18-positive nodule. In one gland two nodules containing two different KCNJ5 mutations were present. Zona fasciculata-like cells were more typical for KCNJ5 mutation-containing nodules and zona glomerulosa-like cells for the other three genes.

Conclusions:

Somatic mutations in KCNJ5, ATP1A1, or CACNA1D genes are not limited to APAs but are also found in the more frequent multinodular adrenals. In multinodular glands, only one nodule harbors a mutation. This suggests that the occurrence of a mutation and nodule formation are independent processes. The implications for clinical management remain to be determined.

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