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Genetic Alterations and Molecular Signatures in Aldosterone Producing Adenomas
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Surgical Sciences, Endocrine Surgery. Uppsala University. (Experimentell kirurgi)
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Primary Aldosteronism (PA) is caused by autonomous overproduction of aldosterone. Aldosterone is necessary for fluid and ion homeostasis. Aberrant overproduction leads to hypertension and cardiovascular damage. With a prevalence of over 5% in the worlds’ hypertensive community, and with over a billion people worldwide having high blood pressure, PA represents a major contributor to health care costs and morbidity. Importantly, 30% of PA patients have a unilateral dominant secretion, an aldosterone producing adenoma (APA), making it possible to cure a substantial portion of patients with surgery. Unfortunately, there is a large underdiagnosis of PA, leading to delayed diagnosis in many patients, worsening their outcome after surgery. A need for better screening techniques, raised awareness and treatment options for PA is warranted.

Since 2011, the genetic understanding of APAs has revolutionized. Somatic mutations turning on an autonomous aldosterone production has been observed in up to 80% of tumors. In this thesis we have investigated the genetic landscape and phenotypes of APAs. By international collaborations we have collected one of the largest cohorts of APAs ever sequenced. We have confirmed and extended the understanding of KCNJ5 mutations, its associated phenotype and the specificity for APAs. We have confirmed a high rate of mutations in ATP1A1, ATP2B3 and CACNA1D, and noted distinct clinical and molecular phenotypes in these tumors. We describe a marker of Zona Glomerulosa cells, perhaps important for the normal regulation and function of these cells. We observe somatic mutations in CTNNB1, occurring in a mutually exclusive manner to the other mutations. Using in situ sequencing, we note genetic heterogeneity in APAs with KCNJ5 mutations. Finally, we evaluate intratumoral aldosterone measurement on a large cohort of tumors, validating a high specificity for APAs. Noting also a difference in the level of intratumoral aldosterone between APAs and a possible association with genotype. Remarkably, we also note a robust correlation between the intracellular concentrations and plasma-aldosterone. We hope that with gained knowledge of the genetic background, the understanding of both pathologic and normal states of the adrenals will increase, and hopefully benefit patients in the future.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. , 49 p.
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Medicine, ISSN 1651-6206 ; 1197
Keyword [en]
Aldosterone, aldosterone producing adenoma, KCNJ5, ATP1A1, ATP2B3, CACNA1D, CTNNB1
National Category
Endocrinology and Diabetes
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281042ISBN: 978-91-554-9517-6OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-281042DiVA: diva2:912577
Public defence
2016-05-07, Robergssalen, Akademiska sjukhuset, ingång 40, plan 4, Uppsala, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2016-04-15 Created: 2016-03-16 Last updated: 2016-04-21
List of papers
1. Comprehensive Re-Sequencing of Adrenal Aldosterone Producing Lesions Reveal Three Somatic Mutations near the KCNJ5 Potassium Channel Selectivity Filter
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Comprehensive Re-Sequencing of Adrenal Aldosterone Producing Lesions Reveal Three Somatic Mutations near the KCNJ5 Potassium Channel Selectivity Filter
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2012 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 7, no 7, e41926- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Aldosterone producing lesions are a common cause of hypertension, but genetic alterations for tumorigenesis have been unclear. Recently, either of two recurrent somatic missense mutations (G151R or L168R) was found in the potassium channel KCNJ5 gene in aldosterone producing adenomas. These mutations alter the channel selectivity filter and result in Na+ conductance and cell depolarization, stimulating aldosterone production and cell proliferation. Because a similar mutation occurs in a Mendelian form of primary aldosteronism, these mutations appear to be sufficient for cell proliferation and aldosterone production. The prevalence and spectrum of KCNJ5 mutations in different entities of adrenocortical lesions remain to be defined.

Materials and Methods: The coding region and flanking intronic segments of KCNJ5 were subjected to Sanger DNA sequencing in 351 aldosterone producing lesions, from patients with primary aldosteronism and 130 other adrenocortical lesions. The specimens had been collected from 10 different worldwide referral centers.

Results: G151R or L168R somatic mutations were identified in 47% of aldosterone producing adenomas, each with similar frequency. A previously unreported somatic mutation near the selectivity filter, E145Q, was observed twice. Somatic G151R or L168R mutations were also found in 40% of aldosterone producing adenomas associated with marked hyperplasia, but not in specimens with merely unilateral hyperplasia. Mutations were absent in 130 non-aldosterone secreting lesions. KCNJ5 mutations were overrepresented in aldosterone producing adenomas from female compared to male patients (63 vs. 24%). Males with KCNJ5 mutations were significantly younger than those without (45 vs. 54, respectively; p < 0.005) and their APAs with KCNJ5 mutations were larger than those without (27.1 mm vs. 17.1 mm; p < 0.005).

Discussion: Either of two somatic KCNJ5 mutations are highly prevalent and specific for aldosterone producing lesions. These findings provide new insight into the pathogenesis of primary aldosteronism.

National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-183242 (URN)10.1371/journal.pone.0041926 (DOI)000306950200128 ()
Available from: 2012-10-25 Created: 2012-10-23 Last updated: 2016-04-21Bibliographically approved
2. Novel somatic mutations and distinct molecular signature in aldosterone-producing adenomas.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Novel somatic mutations and distinct molecular signature in aldosterone-producing adenomas.
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2015 (English)In: Endocrine-Related Cancer, ISSN 1351-0088, E-ISSN 1479-6821, Vol. 22, no 5, 735-744 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs) are found in 1.5-3.0% of hypertensive patients in primary care and can be cured by surgery. Elucidation of genetic events may improve our understanding of these tumors and ultimately improve patient care. Approximately 40% of APAs harbor a missense mutation in the KCNJ5 gene. More recently, somatic mutations in CACNA1D, ATP1A1 and ATP2B3, also important for membrane potential/intracellular Ca(2) (+) regulation, were observed in APAs. In this study, we analyzed 165 APAs for mutations in selected regions of these genes. We then correlated mutational findings with clinical and molecular phenotype using transcriptome analysis, immunohistochemistry and semiquantitative PCR. Somatic mutations in CACNA1D in 3.0% (one novel mutation), ATP1A1 in 6.1% (six novel mutations) and ATP2B3 in 3.0% (two novel mutations) were detected. All observed mutations were located in previously described hotspot regions. Patients with tumors harboring mutations in CACNA1D, ATP1A1 and ATP2B3 were operated at an older age, were more often male and had tumors that were smaller than those in patients with KCNJ5 mutated tumors. Microarray transcriptome analysis segregated KCNJ5 mutated tumors from ATP1A1/ATP2B3 mutated tumors and those without mutation. We observed significant transcription upregulation of CYP11B2, as well as the previously described glomerulosa-specific gene NPNT, in ATP1A1/ATP2B3 mutated tumors compared to KCNJ5 mutated tumors. In summary, we describe novel somatic mutations in proteins regulating the membrane potential/intracellular Ca(2) (+) levels, and also a distinct mRNA and clinical signature, dependent on genetic alteration.

ATP1A1; CACNA1D; KCNJ5; primary aldosteronism; aldosterone-producing adenoma
National Category
Medical and Health Sciences
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-266639 (URN)10.1530/ERC-15-0321 (DOI)000364022400010 ()26285814 (PubMedID)
Swedish Cancer SocietySwedish Research Council
Available from: 2015-11-10 Created: 2015-11-10 Last updated: 2016-04-28
3. Activating mutations in CTNNB1 in aldosterone producing adenomas
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Activating mutations in CTNNB1 in aldosterone producing adenomas
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2016 (English)In: Scientific Reports, ISSN 2045-2322, E-ISSN 2045-2322, Vol. 6, 19546Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Primary aldosteronism (PA) is the most common cause of secondary hypertension with a prevalenceof 5–10% in unreferred hypertensive patients. Aldosterone producing adenomas (APAs) constitutea large proportion of PA cases and represent a surgically correctable form of the disease. The WNTsignaling pathway is activated in APAs. In other tumors, a frequent cause of aberrant WNT signaling ismutation in the CTNNB1 gene coding for β-catenin. Our objective was to screen for CTNNB1 mutationsin a well-characterized cohort of 198 APAs. Somatic CTNNB1 mutations were detected in 5.1% of thetumors, occurring mutually exclusive from mutations in KCNJ5, ATP1A1, ATP2B3 and CACNA1D. Allof the observed mutations altered serine/threonine residues in the GSK3β binding domain in exon 3.The mutations were associated with stabilized β-catenin and increased AXIN2 expression, suggestingactivation of WNT signaling. By CYP11B2 mRNA expression, CYP11B2 protein expression, and directmeasurement of aldosterone in tumor tissue, we confirmed the ability for aldosterone production. Thisreport provides compelling evidence that aberrant WNT signaling caused by mutations in CTNNB1 occurin APAs. This also suggests that other mechanisms that constitutively activate the WNT pathway maybe important in APA formation.

National Category
Endocrinology and Diabetes Medical and Health Sciences
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-277306 (URN)10.1038/srep19546 (DOI)000368736400001 ()26815163 (PubMedID)
Swedish Cancer SocietySwedish Research Council
Available from: 2016-02-19 Created: 2016-02-19 Last updated: 2016-04-21Bibliographically approved
4. Intratumoural Aldosterone and Heterogeneity in Genetic Subtypes of Aldosterone Producing Adenomas
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Intratumoural Aldosterone and Heterogeneity in Genetic Subtypes of Aldosterone Producing Adenomas
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]



Primary Aldosteronism is the most common endocrine cause of hypertension. Unilateral disease in the form of Aldosterone producing adenomas (APAs) is found in 1.5-3% of hypertensive. Determining the source of aldosteronism is necessary for correct diagnosis and further molecular analysis.


To evaluate tissue aldosterone as a marker of aldosterone production and correlate it to patient phenotype and tumour mutation status, and to explore molecular heterogeneity in APAs.


Forty-six frozen tumour samples from patients diagnosed with APAs were included. Tumours were derived from a single endocrine referral center, and had been stored from 1985 to 2015. Tissue aldosterone concentration was related to clinical characteristics, genotype and molecular phenotype. Genetic heterogeneity was investigated by biopsies and in situ sequencing. Immunohistochemical analysis of Nephronectin, CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 were performed. qRT-PCR and in situ mRNA expression were used to analyze CYP11B2 mRNA expression.


Tissue aldosterone content was specific for aldosterone producing tumours and proved stable after long-term storage at -70C. CYP11B2 expression and aldosterone concentrations were higher in tumours with ATP1A1, ATP2B3 and CACNA1D mutations compared to those with KCNJ5 mutations (p<0.0001 and p=0.0018 respectively). The tissue aldosterone content correlated with CYP11B2 protein expression (r2=0.48, p<0.0001), and both CYP11B2 expression and tissue aldosterone content were associated with the plasma level of aldosterone (r2=0.33, p=0.0002 and r2=0.75, p<0.0001 respectively). In four tumours with suspicion of genetic heterogeneity, sampling of DNA revealed a heterogeneous KCNJ5 mutation in one tumour. Using in situ sequencing we confirmed heterogeneous expression of mutated KCNJ5 cDNA in the others. In three tumours classified as APAs, no mutation nor any aldosterone or CYP11B2 were detected, suggesting non-functional tumours.


Tissue aldosterone content is specific for aldosterone producing lesions, correlates with plasma levels, and displays variable levels depending on tumour genotype. Genetic heterogeneity is evident in a subgroup of KCNJ5 mutated tumours. The present results show that CYP11B2 expression and tissue aldosterone measurement may be used to clarify the source of aldosterone secretion. 

National Category
Clinical Medicine Endocrinology and Diabetes
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-281039 (URN)
Available from: 2016-03-16 Created: 2016-03-16 Last updated: 2016-04-21

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