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Aurelie Nguyen Dinh Cat, Malou Friederich-Persson, Anna White, and Rhian M Touyz

Understanding the mechanisms linking obesity with hypertension is important in the current obesity epidemic as it may improve therapeutic interventions. Plasma aldosterone levels are positively correlated with body mass index and weight loss in obese patients is reported to be accompanied by decreased aldosterone levels. This suggests a relationship between adipose tissue and the production/secretion of aldosterone. Aldosterone is synthesized principally by the adrenal glands, but its production may be regulated by many factors, including factors secreted by adipocytes. In addition, studies have reported local synthesis of aldosterone in extra-adrenal tissues, including adipose tissue. Experimental studies have highlighted a role for adipocyte-secreted aldosterone in the pathogenesis of obesity-related cardiovascular complications via the mineralocorticoid receptor. This review focuses on how aldosterone secretion may be influenced by adipose tissue and the importance of these mechanisms in the context of obesity-related hypertension.

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A Jamieson, J M C Connell, and R Fraser

Glucocorticoid-suppressible hyperaldosteronism (GSH), first described in 1966 (Sutherland et al. 1966), is a rare cause of familial hypertension. It presents in young adults with hypertension, hypokalaemia and suppressed plasma renin activity (features caused by the excess activity of aldosterone secretion), and is distinguished from other forms of primary hyperaldosteronism by its autosomal dominant mode of inheritance and the reversal of all its clinical and biochemical abnormalities by the administration of small doses of the synthetic glucocorticoid dexamethasone (Connell et al. 1986). GSH is also characterized by abnormally elevated levels of 18-hydroxycortisol and 18-oxocortisol, the excretion of which also falls to normal following dexamethasone administration (Chu & Ulick, 1982; Ulick et al. 1983; Gomez-Sanchez et al. 1984). The study of the production of these unusual 18-hydroxylated steroids has led to a reappraisal of the late reactions in aldosterone and cortisol synthesis by the adrenal cortex,

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Fabio Luiz Fernandes-Rosa, Sheerazed Boulkroun, and Maria-Christina Zennaro

Primary aldosteronism (PA), the most common form of secondary hypertension, is caused in the majority of cases by unilateral aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA) or bilateral adrenal hyperplasia. Over the past few years, somatic mutations in KCNJ5, CACNA1D, ATP1A1 and ATP2B3 have been proven to be associated with APA development, representing more than 50% of sporadic APA. The identification of these mutations has allowed the development of a model for APA involving modification on the intracellular ionic equilibrium and regulation of cell membrane potential, leading to autonomous aldosterone overproduction. Furthermore, somatic CTNNB1 mutations have also been identified in APA, but the link between these mutations and APA development remains unknown. The sequence of events responsible for APA formation is not completely understood, in particular, whether a single hit or a double hit is responsible for both aldosterone overproduction and cell proliferation. Germline mutations identified in patients with early-onset PA have expanded the classification of familial forms (FH) of PA. The description of germline KCNJ5 and CACNA1H mutations has identified FH-III and FH-IV based on genetic findings; germline CACNA1D mutations have been identified in patients with very early-onset PA and severe neurological abnormalities. This review summarizes current knowledge on the genetic basis of PA, the association of driver gene mutations and clinical findings and in the contribution to patient care, plus the current understanding on the mechanisms of APA development.

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ME Baker

The nuclear receptor family responds to a diverse group of ligands, including steroids, retinoids, thyroid hormone, prostaglandins and fatty acids. Previous sequence analyses of adrenal and sex steroid receptors indicate that they form a clade separate from other nuclear receptors. However, the relationships of adrenal and sex steroid receptors to each other and to their ancestors are not fully understood. We have used new information from androgen, estrogen, mineralocorticoid and progesterone receptors in fish to better resolve the phylogeny of adrenal and sex steroid receptors. Sequence divergence between fish and mammalian steroid receptors correlates with differences in steroid specificity, suggesting that phylogeny needs to be considered in evaluating the endocrine effects of xenobiotics. Among the vertebrate steroid receptors, the most ancient is the estrogen receptor. The phylogeny indicates that adrenal and sex steroid receptors arose in a jawless fish or a protochordate and that changes in the sequence of the hormone-binding domain have slowed considerably in land vertebrates. The retinoid X receptor clade is closest to the adrenal and sex steroid receptor clade. Retinoid X receptor is noteworthy for its ability to form dimers with other nuclear receptors, an important mechanism for regulating the action of retinoid X receptor and its dimerization partners. In contrast, the adrenal and sex steroid receptors bind to DNA as homodimers. Moreover, unliganded adrenal and sex steroid receptors form complexes with heat shock protein 90. Thus, the evolution of adrenal and sex steroid receptors involved changes in protein-protein interactions as well as ligand recognition.

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A J Conley, W E Rainey, and J I Mason

ABSTRACT

This study examined fetal steroidogenic enzyme expression and function during pregnancy in the pig. Northern and Western analyses were performed to detect the cytochrome P450 enzyme 17α-hydroxylase/17–20 lyase (P450c17) and that for cholesterol side-chain cleavage (P450scc), as well as 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (3β-HSD) expression in several porcine fetal tissues. The data demonstrate higher steroidogenic enzyme expression in the fetal adrenal glands and testes than in the placenta at all stages of development examined. Although steroidogenic enzyme expression was maintained throughout gestation in both the fetal adrenals and the testes, adrenal P450c17 expression was higher in the early and late stages when compared with the intermediate stages of fetal development. The stimulation of fetal adrenal steroidogenic enzyme expression in the later stage fetuses was accompanied by increased expression of P450c17 in both the fetal testes and placenta. The expression of 3β-HSD by porcine fetal testes was low compared with that of the fetal adrenal gland at all stages of development. Adrenal explants and cultured cells secreted cortisol and androstenedione but much lower amounts of corticosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone and aldosterone. Secretion of cortisol and androstenedione by adrenal explants was maintained by ACTH for 5 days of culture but declined in controls. In cultured porcine fetal adrenal cells, ACTH and angiotensin II stimulated the secretion of multiple steroids. Porcine fetal testis explants and cultured cells secreted testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone and androstenedione, but were only moderately responsive to trophic stimulation by LH. In general, the data suggest that the fetal adrenal glands and the fetal testes have the potential to contribute significantly to the production of steroids during pregnancy in pigs.

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Ariadni Spyroglou, Jenny Manolopoulou, Sibylle Wagner, Martin Bidlingmaier, Martin Reincke, and Felix Beuschlein

Aldosterone is synthesized acutely from the zona glomerulosa cells upon stimulation by the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system. Several enzymes are involved in this steroidogenic process including the steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (StAR), P450 side chain cleavage enzyme (Cyp11a1), and aldosterone synthase (Cyp11b2) which has been demonstrated to be transcriptionally regulated by the nuclear transcription factors NGF1-B and Nurr1. We investigated the short time transcriptional regulation of these genes in wild-type mice at 10 min intervals for 1 h following application of 0.2 nmol angiotensin II (ANGII) or sodium chloride in comparison sham injections. Using real-time PCR a fast upregulation of adrenal Cyp11b2 expression (53±5% increase over baseline) could be observed 10 min after sham injection which was accompanied by a transient increase in aldosterone secretion while StAR and Cyp11a1 upregulation was delayed and more sustained. ANGII caused an increase of StAR and Cyp11a1 expression similar to that observed after sham injection while Cyp11b2 upregulation was more pronounced (10 min, 236±39%) and reflected ANGII induced stimulation of aldosterone output. Sodium challenge was followed by a sustained reduction of all three genes examined (Cyp11b2, 20 min, −63±6%) which was accompanied by a significant suppression of aldosterone secretion detectable after 60 min. While increases in NGF1-B mRNA levels were similar between the treatment groups, Nurr1 expression levels were induced only upon ANGII administration. These data suggest that acute regulation of aldosterone synthesis is accompanied by fast transcriptional modulation of steroidogenic enzymes and transcription factors that are likely to be involved in aldosterone secretion.

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Alexander Dierks, Urs D Lichtenauer, Simone Sackmann, Ariadni Spyroglou, Igor Shapiro, Marcel Geyer, Jenny Manonopoulou, Martin Reincke, Constanze Hantel, and Felix Beuschlein

Potassium and angiotensin II are the main stimulators of aldosterone secretion from the adrenal cortex. As potassium-induced in vivo gene regulation in the adrenal cortex has not been studied in detail, we applied a stepwise screening approach: first, we investigated the effects of chronic potassium substitution in mice. Microarray analysis of adrenal glands revealed a set of genes (set A) that were counter-regulated in a high potassium (HP) and low potassium substitution group, while others (set B) were highly upregulated in the HP intake group. In a second step, time dependency of expression changes of these pre-defined genes was studied following short-term potassium stimulation experiments in vivo. Thirdly, dose dependency of potassium-induced gene regulation was investigated in vitro. Finally, to provide indirect evidence for the potential relevance of the detected changes for autonomous aldosterone secretion, expression analysis of aldosterone-producing adenomas was compared with normal adrenal glands. While most investigated genes were similarly regulated following long- and short-term potassium stimulation in vivo, observed changes were reproducible in NCI h295R adrenocortical cells mostly for the set of genes identified in the HP group (set B). Similarly, in Conn's adenomas, mostly genes from set B displayed changes in expression pattern in comparison to normal adrenal glands, while genes from set A were mostly unchanged. Thus, while in vivo models can help in identifying genes potentially involved in potassium-dependent aldosterone secretion, these findings also underline the necessity to interpret potassium-induced gene regulation on the basis of the experimental setting.

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Hong-Wei Chang, Chao-Yuan Huang, Shao-Yu Yang, Vin-Cent Wu, Tzong-Shinn Chu, Yung-Ming Chen, Bor-Shen Hsieh, and Kwan-Dun Wu

Aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA) and bilateral adrenal hyperplasia are the two characteristic types of primary aldosteronism. Dysregulation of adrenal cortical cell proliferation contributes to both diseases. We previously demonstrated that APA expressed less dopamine D2 receptor than the respective non-tumor tissue and might contribute to the overproduction of aldosterone. As activation of D2 receptor inhibits the proliferation of various cells, downregulation of D2 receptor in APA may play a role in the tumorigenesis of APA. In this study, we demonstrate that D2 receptor plays a role in angiotensin II (AII)-stimulated adrenal cortical cell proliferation. The D2 receptor agonist, bromocriptine, inhibited AII-stimulated cell proliferation in primary cultures of the normal human adrenal cortex and APA through attenuating AII-induced phosphorylation of PK-stimulated cyclin D1 protein expression and cell proliferation. D2 receptor also inhibited AII-induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation. Our results demonstrate that, in addition to inhibiting aldosterone synthesis/production, D2 receptor exerts an anti-proliferative effect in adrenal cortical and APA cells by attenuating PKCμ and ERK phosphorylation. The lower level of expression of D2 receptor in APA may augment cell proliferation and plays a crucial role in the tumorigenesis of APA. Our novel finding suggests a new therapeutic target for primary aldosteronism.

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M Shimojo, C B Whorwood, and P M Stewart

ABSTRACT

11β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11β-HSD) catalyses the interconversion of biologically active cortisol to inactive cortisone in man, and corticosterone to 11-dehydrocorticosterone in rodents. As such, this enzyme has been shown to confer aldosterone-selectivity on the mineralocorticoid receptor and to modulate cortisol/corticosterone access to the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Two kinetically distinct isoforms of this enzyme have been characterized in both rodents and man; a low-affinity NADP(H)-dependent enzyme (11β-HSD1) which predominantly acts as an oxo-reductase and, more recently, a high-affinity NAD-dependent uni-directional dehydrogenase (11β-HSD2). In this study we have analysed the expression of both 11β-HSD1 and 11β-HSD2 isoforms in rat adrenal cortex and medulla and have investigated their possible roles with respect to glucocorticoid-regulated enzymes mediating catecholamine biosynthesis in adrenal medullary chromaffin cells.

Using a rat 11β-HSD1 probe and a recently cloned in-house mouse 11β-HSD2 cDNA probe, Northern blot analyses revealed expression of mRNA species encoding both 11β-HSD1 (1·4kb) and 11β-HSD2 (1·9kb) in the whole adrenal. Consistent with this, 11β-dehydrogenase activity (pmol 11-dehydrocorticosterone formed/mg protein per h, mean ± s.e.m.) in adrenal homogenates, when incubated with 50 nm corticosterone in the presence of 200 μm NAD, was 97·0 ± 9·0 and with 500 nm corticosterone in the presence of 200 μm NADP, was 98·0 ± 1·4 11-Oxoreductase activity (pmol corticosterone formed/mg protein per h) with 500 nm 11-dehydrocorticosterone in the presence of 200 μm NADPH, was 187·7 ± 31·2. In situ hybridization studies of rat adrenal cortex and medulla using 35S-labelled antisense 11β-HSD1 cRNA probe revealed specific localization of 11β-HSD1 mRNA expression predominantly to cells at the corticomedullary junction, most likely within the inner cortex. In contrast, 11β-HSD2 mRNA was more abundant in cortex versus medulla, and was more uniformly distributed over the adrenal gland. Negligible staining was detected using control sense probes.

Ingestion of the 11β-HSD inhibitor, glycyrrhizic acid (>100mg/kg body weight per day for 4 days) resulted in significant inhibition of adrenal NADP-dependent (98·0 ± 1·4 vs 42·5 ± 0·4) and NAD-dependent (97·0 ± 9·0 vs 73·2 ± 6·7) 11β-dehydrogenase activity and 11-oxoreductase activity (187·7 ± 31·2 vs 67·7 ± 15·3). However, while levels of 11β-HSD1 mRNA were similarly reduced (0·85 ± 0·07 vs 0·50 ± 0·05 arbitrary units), those for 11β-HSD2 remained unchanged (0·44 ± 0·03 vs 0·38 ± 0·01). Levels of mRNA encoding the glucocorticoid-dependent enzyme phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase which catalyses the conversion of noradrenaline to adrenaline, were also significantly reduced in those rats given glycyrrhizic acid (1·12 ± 0·04 vs 0·78 ± 0·04), while those for the glucocorticoid-independent enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase (1·9 kb), which catalyses the conversion of tyrosine to DOPA, were unchanged (0·64 ± 0·04 vs 0·61 ± 0·04).

In conclusion, the rat adrenal gland expresses both 11β-HSD1 and 11β-HSD2 isoforms. 11β-HSDl gene expression is localized to the adrenal cortico-medullary junction, where it is ideally placed to regulate the supply of cortex-derived corticosterone to the medullary chromaffin cells. This, together with our in vivo studies, suggests that 11β-HSD1 may play an important role with respect to adrenocorticosteroid regulation of adrenaline biosynthesis. The role of 11β-HSD2 in the adrenal remains to be elucidated.

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P. Netchitailo, A. Larcher, F. Leboulenger, M. Feuilloley, D. Philibert, and H. Vaudry

ABSTRACT

To investigate a possible direct action of glucocorticoids on adrenal steroidogenesis, the effect of corticosterone on the conversion of pregnenolone into various metabolites by frog adrenal tissue was examined. Frog interrenal slices were incubated with [3H]pregnenolone (1 mCi/ml) and the various labelled metabolites analysed by reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography. With the methanol gradient used, five identified steroids were resolved: progesterone, 11-deoxycorticosterone, corticosterone, 18-hydroxycorticosterone and aldosterone. Corticosterone (10 μg/ml) induced a 45–80% decrease in all steroids synthesized from [3H]pregnenolone. In contrast, the glucocorticoid agonist dexamethasone did not reduce the rate of conversion of pregnenolone into its metabolites. In addition, the inhibitory effect of corticosterone was not reversed by the specific glucocorticoid antagonist RU 43044. These results show that corticosterone exerts a direct inhibitory effect on adrenal steroid secretion. In addition, our data indicate that the ultra-short regulation induced by corticosterone is not mediated through glucocorticoid receptors.