Clonal Composition of Human Adrenocortical Neoplasms
Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms
Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital
Dosage Compensation, Genetic
The mechanisms of tumorigenesis of adrenocortical neoplasms are still not understood. Tumor formation may be the result of spontaneous transformation of adrenocortical cells by somatic mutations. Another factor stimulating adrenocortical cell growth and potentially associated with formation of adrenal adenomas and, less frequently, carcinomas is the chronic elevation of proopiomelanocortin-derived peptides in diseases like ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. To further investigate the pathogenesis of adrenocortical neoplasms, we studied the clonal composition of such tumors using X-chromosome inactivation analysis of the highly polymorphic region Xcen-Xp11.4 with the hybridization probe M27 beta, which maps to a variable number of tandem repeats on the X-chromosome. In addition, polymerase chain reaction amplification of a phosphoglycerokinase gene polymorphism was performed. After DNA extraction from tumorous adrenal tissue and normal leukocytes in parallel, the active X-chromosome of each sample was digested with the methylation-sensitive restriction enzyme HpaII. A second digestion with an appropriate restriction enzyme revealed the polymorphism of the region Xcen-Xp11.4 and the phosphoglycerokinase locus. Whereas in normal polyclonal tissue both the paternal and maternal alleles are detected, a monoclonal tumor shows only one of the parental alleles. A total of 21 female patients with adrenal lesions were analyzed; 17 turned out to be heterozygous for at least one of the loci. Our results were as follows: diffuse (n = 4) and nodular (n = 1) adrenal hyperplasia in patients with ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome, polyclonal pattern; adrenocortical adenomas (n = 8), monoclonal (n = 7), as well as polyclonal (n = 1); adrenal carcinomas (n = 3), monoclonal pattern. One metastasis of an adrenocortical carcinoma showed a pattern most likely due to tumor-associated loss of methylation. In the special case of a patient with bilateral ACTH-independent macronodular hyperplasia, diffuse hyperplastic areas and a small nodule showed a polyclonal pattern, whereas a large nodule was monoclonal. We conclude that most adrenal adenomas and carcinomas are monoclonal, whereas diffuse and nodular adrenal hyperplasias are polyclonal. The clonal composition of ACTH-independent massive macronodular hyperplasia seems to be heterogeneous, consisting of polyclonal and monoclonal areas.