Gene Summary

Gene:MC2R; melanocortin 2 receptor
Aliases: ACTHR
Summary:MC2R encodes one member of the five-member G-protein associated melanocortin receptor family. Melanocortins (melanocyte-stimulating hormones and adrenocorticotropic hormone) are peptides derived from pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC). MC2R is selectively activated by adrenocorticotropic hormone, whereas the other four melanocortin receptors recognize a variety of melanocortin ligands. Mutations in MC2R can result in familial glucocorticoid deficiency. Alternate transcript variants have been found for this gene. [provided by RefSeq, May 2014]
Databases:OMIM, HGNC, Ensembl, GeneCard, Gene
Protein:adrenocorticotropic hormone receptor
Source:NCBIAccessed: 30 August, 2019


What does this gene/protein do?
Show (8)
Pathways:What pathways are this gene/protein implicaed in?
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Cancer Overview

Research Indicators

Publications Per Year (1994-2019)
Graph generated 30 August 2019 using data from PubMed using criteria.

Literature Analysis

Mouse over the terms for more detail; many indicate links which you can click for dedicated pages about the topic.

  • Immunoassay
  • Adrenal Cortex
  • Androgen Receptors
  • Messenger RNA
  • DLK1 protein, human
  • Adrenocortical Cancer
  • Aldosterone
  • Single Nucleotide Polymorphism
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Signal Transduction
  • Adenoma
  • Chromosome 18
  • Adrenocortical Carcinoma
  • Adrenal Rest Tumor
  • Receptors, Gastrointestinal Hormone
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Cancer Gene Expression Regulation
  • RT-PCR
  • Genotype
  • Adrenocortical Adenoma
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Transcriptome
  • Steroid 21-Hydroxylase
  • G-Protein-Coupled Receptors
  • Receptors, LH
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 2
  • Adrenocortical Cancer
  • Leydig Cell Tumor
  • CYP17
  • Carcinoma, Ovarian Epithelial
  • DNA Methylation
  • Hyperaldosteronism
  • CYP21A2 protein, human
  • Repetitive Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Receptors, Glucagon
Tag cloud generated 30 August, 2019 using data from PubMed, MeSH and CancerIndex

Specific Cancers (4)

Data table showing topics related to specific cancers and associated disorders. Scope includes mutations and abnormal protein expression.

Note: list is not exhaustive. Number of papers are based on searches of PubMed (click on topic title for arbitrary criteria used).

Latest Publications: MC2R (cancer-related)

Candida Barisson Villares Fragoso M, Pontes Cavalcante I, Meneses Ferreira A, et al.
Genetics of primary macronodular adrenal hyperplasia.
Presse Med. 2018 Jul - Aug; 47(7-8 Pt 2):e139-e149 [PubMed] Related Publications
Recent advances in molecular genetics investigations of primary macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (PMAH) have been providing new insights for the research on this issue. The cAMP-dependent pathway is physiologically triggered by ACTH and its receptor, MC2-R, in adrenocortical cells. Different mechanisms of this cascade may be altered in some functioning adrenal cortical disorders. Activating somatic mutations of the GNAS gene (known as gsp oncogene) which encodes the stimulatory G protein alpha-subunit (Gsα) have been found in a small number of adrenocortical secreting adenomas and rarely in PMAH. Lately, ARMC5 was linked to the cyclic AMP signaling pathway, which could be implicated in all of mechanisms of cortisol-secreting by macronodules adrenal hyperplasia and the molecular defects in: G protein aberrant receptors; MC2R; GNAS; PRKAR1A; PDE11A; PDE8B. Around 50 % of patient's relatives with PMAH and 30 % of apparently sporadic hypercortisolism carried ARMC5 mutations. Therefore, PMAH is genetically determined more frequently than previously believed. This review summarizes the most important molecular mechanisms involved in PMAH.

Itcho K, Oki K, Kobuke K, et al.
Aberrant G protein-receptor expression is associated with DNA methylation in aldosterone-producing adenoma.
Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2018; 461:100-104 [PubMed] Related Publications
This study aimed to evaluate the methylation levels of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) related genes and the effects of methylation on mRNA expression levels in aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA). DNA methylation array and transcriptome analysis were applied in non-functioning adrenocortical adenoma (NFA) and APA. We investigated 192 GPCR-related genes and found hypo-methylation in the promoter region of 66 of these genes in APA. An integration study between microarray and methylation analysis revealed that HTR4, MC2R, TACR1, GRM3, and PTGER1 showed hypo-methylation and up-regulation of mRNA in APA. qPCR analysis showed that HTR4 and PTGER1 expression was 9.3-fold and 6.6-fold higher in APAs than in NFAs, respectively, whereas expression of the other genes was not different between the groups. Methylation of HTR4 and PTGER1 at positions -229 and -666 from the transcription start site, respectively, showed a significant inverse correlation with their mRNA levels. Methylation levels were not associated with KCNJ5 or ATP1A1 mutations in human adrenal samples. We demonstrated an increased incidence of CpG island demethylation of GPCR-related gene in APA. The expression of two receptors, HTR4 and PTGER1, showed a strong association with DNA methylation.

Puar T, Engels M, van Herwaarden AE, et al.
Bilateral Testicular Tumors Resulting in Recurrent Cushing Disease After Bilateral Adrenalectomy.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2017; 102(2):339-344 [PubMed] Related Publications
Context: Recurrence of hypercortisolism in patients after bilateral adrenalectomy for Cushing disease is extremely rare.
Patient: We present a 27-year-old man who previously underwent bilateral adrenalectomy for Cushing disease with complete clinical resolution. Cushingoid features recurred 12 years later, with bilateral testicular enlargement. Hormonal tests confirmed adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)-dependent Cushing disease. Surgical resection of the testicular tumors led to clinical and biochemical remission.
Design and Results: Gene expression analysis of the tumor tissue by quantitative polymerase chain reaction showed high expression of all key steroidogenic enzymes. Adrenocortical-specific genes were 5.1 × 105 (CYP11B1), 1.8 × 102 (CYP11B2), and 6.3 × 104 (MC2R) times higher than nonsteroidogenic fibroblast control. This correlated with urine steroid metabolome profiling showing 2 fivefold increases in the excretion of the metabolites of 11-deoxycortisol, 21-deoxycortisol, and total glucocorticoids. Leydig-specific genes were 4.3 × 101 (LHCGR) and 9.3 × 100 (HSD17B3) times higher than control, and urinary steroid profiling showed twofold increased excretion of the major androgen metabolites androsterone and etiocholanolone. These distinctly increased steroid metabolites were suppressed by dexamethasone but unresponsive to human chorionic gonadotropin stimulation, supporting the role of ACTH, but not luteinizing hormone, in regulating tumor-specific steroid excess.
Conclusion: We report bilateral testicular tumors occurring in a patient with recurrent Cushing disease 12 years after bilateral adrenalectomy. Using mRNA expression analysis and steroid metabolome profiling, the tumors demonstrated both adrenocortical and gonadal steroidogenic properties, similar to testicular adrenal rest tumors found in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, suggesting the presence of pluripotent cells even in patients without congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

Permuth JB, Pirie A, Ann Chen Y, et al.
Exome genotyping arrays to identify rare and low frequency variants associated with epithelial ovarian cancer risk.
Hum Mol Genet. 2016; 25(16):3600-3612 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Rare and low frequency variants are not well covered in most germline genotyping arrays and are understudied in relation to epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) risk. To address this gap, we used genotyping arrays targeting rarer protein-coding variation in 8,165 EOC cases and 11,619 controls from the international Ovarian Cancer Association Consortium (OCAC). Pooled association analyses were conducted at the variant and gene level for 98,543 variants directly genotyped through two exome genotyping projects. Only common variants that represent or are in strong linkage disequilibrium (LD) with previously-identified signals at established loci reached traditional thresholds for exome-wide significance (P < 5.0 × 10 

Murakami M, Yoshimoto T, Nakabayashi K, et al.
Integration of transcriptome and methylome analysis of aldosterone-producing adenomas.
Eur J Endocrinol. 2015; 173(2):185-95 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVE: The pathophysiology of aldosterone-producing adenomas (APA) has been investigated intensively through genetic and genomic approaches. However, the role of epigenetics in APA is not fully understood. In the present study, we explored the relationship between gene expression and DNA methylation status in APA.
METHODS: We conducted an integrated analysis of transcriptome and methylome data of paired APA-adjacent adrenal gland (AAG) samples from the same patient. The adrenal specimens were obtained from seven Japanese patients with APA who underwent adrenalectomy. Gene expression and genome-wide CpG methylation profiles were obtained from RNA and DNA samples that were extracted from those seven paired tissues.
RESULTS: Methylome analysis showed global CpG hypomethylation in APA relative to AAG. The integration of gene expression and methylation status showed that 34 genes were up-regulated with CpG hypomethylation in APA. Of these, three genes (CYP11B2, MC2R, and HPX) may be related to aldosterone production, and five genes (PRRX1, RAB38, FAP, GCNT2, and ASB4) are potentially involved in tumorigenesis.
CONCLUSION: The present study is the first methylome analysis to compare APA with AAG in the same patients. Our integrated analysis of transcriptome and methylome revealed DNA hypomethylation in APA and identified several up-regulated genes with DNA hypomethylation that may be involved in aldosterone production and tumorigenesis.

Seltzer J, Ashton CE, Scotton TC, et al.
Gene and protein expression in pituitary corticotroph adenomas: a systematic review of the literature.
Neurosurg Focus. 2015; 38(2):E17 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECT Functional corticotroph pituitary adenomas (PAs) secrete adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and are the cause of Cushing's disease, which accounts for 70% of all cases of Cushing's syndrome. Current classification systems for PAs rely primarily on laboratory hormone findings, tumor size and morphology, invasiveness, and immunohistochemical findings. Likewise, drug development for functional ACTH-secreting PAs (ACTH-PAs) is limited and has focused largely on blocking the production or downstream effects of excess cortisol. The authors aimed to summarize the findings from previous studies that explored gene and protein expression of ACTH-PAs to prioritize potential genetic and protein targets for improved molecular diagnosis and treatment of Cushing's disease. METHODS A systematic literature review was performed using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. A PubMed search of select medical subject heading (MeSH) terms was performed to identify all studies that reported gene- and protein-expression findings in ACTH-PAs from January 1, 1990, to August 24, 2014, the day the search was performed. The inclusion criteria were studies on functional ACTH-PAs compared with normal pituitary glands, on human PA tissue only, with any method of analysis, and published in the English language. Studies using anything other than resected PA tissue, those that compared other adenoma types, those without baseline expression data, or those in which any pretreatment was delivered before analysis were excluded. RESULTS The primary search returned 1371 abstracts, of which 307 were found to be relevant. Of those, 178 were selected for secondary full-text analysis. Of these, 64 articles met the inclusion criteria and an additional 4 studies were identified from outside the search for a total of 68 included studies. Compared with the normal pituitary gland, significant gene overexpression in 43 genes and 22 proteins was reported, and gene underexpression in 58 genes and 15 proteins was reported. Immunohistochemistry was used in 39 of the studies, and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction was used in 26 of the studies, primarily, and as validation for 4 others. Thirteen studies used both immunohistochemistry and reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Other methods used included microarray, in situ hybridization, Northern blot analysis, and Western blot analysis. Expression of prioritized genes emphasized in multiple studies were often validated on both the gene and protein levels. Genes/proteins found to be overexpressed in ACTH-PAs relative to the normal pituitary gland included hPTTG1/securin, NEUROD1/NeuroD1 (Beta2), HSD11B2/11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2, AKT/Akt, protein kinase B, and CCND1/cyclin D1. Candidate genes/proteins found to be underexpressed in ACTH-PAs relative to the normal pituitary gland included CDKN1B/p27(Kip1), CDKN2A/p16, KISS1/kisspeptin, ACTHR/ACTH-R, and miR-493. CONCLUSIONS On the basis of the authors' systematic review, many significant gene and protein targets that may contribute to tumorigenesis, invasion, and hormone production/secretion of ACTH have been identified and validated in ACTH-PAs. Many of these potential targets have not been fully analyzed for their therapeutic and diagnostic potential but may represent candidate molecular targets for biomarker development and drug targeting. This review may help catalyze additional research efforts using modern profiling and sequencing techniques and alteration of gene expression.

Lottrup G, Nielsen JE, Skakkebæk NE, et al.
Abundance of DLK1, differential expression of CYP11B1, CYP21A2 and MC2R, and lack of INSL3 distinguish testicular adrenal rest tumours from Leydig cell tumours.
Eur J Endocrinol. 2015; 172(4):491-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
OBJECTIVE: Testicular adrenal rest tumours (TARTs) are a common finding in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH). These tumours constitute a diagnostic and management conundrum and may lead to infertility. TART cells share many functional and morphological similarities with Leydig cells (LCs), and masses consisting of such cells are occasionally misclassified as malignant testicular tumours, which may lead to erroneous orchiectomy in these patients.
DESIGN: In this study, we aimed to investigate the potential of LC developmental markers and adrenal steroidogenic markers in the differential diagnosis of TARTs and malignant LC tumours (LCTs).
METHODS: We investigated mRNA and protein expression of testicular steroidogenic enzymes; CYP11A1 and HSD3B1/2, markers of adrenal steroidogenesis; CYP11B1, CYP21A2 and ACTH receptor/melanocortin 2 receptor (MC2R), and markers of LC maturation; and delta-like 1 homolog (DLK1) and insulin-like 3 (INSL3) in testicular biopsies with TART, orchiectomy specimens with LCTs and samples from human fetal adrenals.
RESULTS: Expression of testicular steroidogenic enzymes was observed in all specimens. All investigated adrenal steroidogenic markers were expressed in TART, and weak reactions for CYP11B1 and MC2R were observed at the protein level in LTCs. TART and fetal adrenals had identical expression profiles. DLK1 was highly expressed and INSL3 not detectable in TART, whereas INSL3 was highly expressed in LCTs.
CONCLUSIONS: The similar expression profiles in TART and fetal adrenals as well as the presence of classical markers of adrenal steroidogenesis lend support to the hypothesis that TART develops from a displaced adrenal cell type. Malignant LCTs seem to have lost DLK1 expression and do not resemble immature LCs. The different expression pattern of DLK1, INSL3 and most adrenocortical markers adds to the elucidation of the histogenesis of testicular interstitial tumours and may facilitate histopathological diagnosis.

Smeets EE, Span PN, van Herwaarden AE, et al.
Molecular characterization of testicular adrenal rest tumors in congenital adrenal hyperplasia: lesions with both adrenocortical and Leydig cell features.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015; 100(3):E524-30 [PubMed] Related Publications
CONTEXT: Testicular adrenal rest tumors (TART) are one of the major long term complications in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. Although several adrenal-like properties have been assigned to these benign lesions, the etiology has not been confirmed yet.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to describe TART in more detail by analyzing several (steroidogenic) characteristics that may be classified as adrenal cortex or Leydig cell specific.
METHODS: Gene expression analysis by qPCR was performed for 14 genes in TART tissue (n = 12) and compared with the expression in healthy control fibroblasts (nonsteroidogenic control). In addition, a comparison was made with the expression levels in testis tissue (n = 9) and adrenal tissue (n = 13).
RESULTS: Nearly all genes were highly expressed in TART tissue, including all genes that encode the key steroidogenic enzymes. TART expression levels are in the majority almost identical to those found in adrenal tissue. The expression of adrenal cortex specific genes (CYP11B1, CYP11B2, and MC2R) in both TART and adrenal tissue is approximately 1000-10 000 times higher compared to that in testes samples. In addition, the Leydig cell markers INSL3 and HSD17B3 were not only found in testes, but also in TART, both at significantly higher levels than in the adrenal (p < 0.01).
CONCLUSION: Our study shows for the first time that TART have multiple steroidogenic properties, which include not only the expression of adrenal cortex but also of Leydig cell markers. Therefore, the origin of these tumors might be a more totipotent embryonic cell type.

Almeida MQ, Kaupert LC, Brito LP, et al.
Increased expression of ACTH (MC2R) and androgen (AR) receptors in giant bilateral myelolipomas from patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
BMC Endocr Disord. 2014; 14:42 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
BACKGROUND: Although chronic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and androgen hyperstimulation are assumed to be involved in the pathogenesis of adrenal myelolipomas associated with poor-compliance patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH), the expression of their receptors has not yet been demonstrated in these tumors so far.
METHODS: We analyzed Melanocortin 2 receptor (MC2R), Androgen Receptor (AR), Leptin (LEP), and Steroidogenic factor 1 (SF1) expression using real-time qRT-PCR in two giant bilateral adrenal myelolipomas from two untreated simple virilizing CAH cases and in two sporadic adrenal myelolipomas. In addition, the X-chromosome inactivation pattern and CAG repeat numbers in AR exon 1 gene were evaluated in the 4 cases.
RESULTS: The MC2R gene was overexpressed in myelolipomas from 3 out of 4 patients. AR overexpression was detected in 2 tumors: a giant bilateral myelolipoma in a CAH patient and a sporadic case. Simultaneous overexpression of AR and MC2R genes was found in two of the cases. Interestingly, the bilateral giant myelolipoma associated with CAH that had high androgen and ACTH levels but lacked MC2R and AR overexpression presented a significantly shorter AR allele compared with other tumors. In addition, X-chromosome inactivation pattern analysis showed a polyclonal origin in all tumors, suggesting a stimulatory effect as the trigger for tumor development.
CONCLUSION: These findings are the first evidence for MC2R or AR overexpression in giant bilateral myelolipomas from poor-compliance CAH patients.

Ndossi DG, Frizzell C, Tremoen NH, et al.
An in vitro investigation of endocrine disrupting effects of trichothecenes deoxynivalenol (DON), T-2 and HT-2 toxins.
Toxicol Lett. 2012; 214(3):268-78 [PubMed] Related Publications
Trichothecenes are a large family of chemically related mycotoxins. Deoxynivalenol (DON), T-2 and HT-2 toxins belong to this family and are produced by various species of Fusarium. The H295R steroidogenesis assay, regulation of steroidogenic gene expression and reporter gene assays (RGAs) for the detection of androgen, estrogen, progestagen and glucocorticoid (ant)agonist responses, have been used to assess the endocrine disrupting activity of DON, T-2 and HT-2 toxins. H295R cells were used as a model for steroidogenesis and gene expression studies and exposed with either DON (0.1-1000ng/ml), T-2 toxin (0.0005-5ng/ml) or HT-2 toxin (0.005-50ng/ml) for 48h. We observed a reduction in hormone levels in media of exposed cells following radioimmunoassay. Cell viability was determined by four colorimetric assays and we observed reduced cell viability with increasing toxin concentrations partly explaining the significant reduction in hormone levels at the highest toxin concentration of all three trichothecenes. Thirteen of the 16 steroidogenic genes analyzed by quantitative real time PCR (RT-qPCR) were significantly regulated (P<0.05) by DON (100ng/ml), T-2 toxin (0.5ng/ml) and HT-2 toxin (5ng/ml) compared to the control, with reference genes (B2M, ATP5B and ACTB). Whereas HMGR and CYP19 were down-regulated, CYP1A1 and CYP21 were up-regulated by all three trichothecenes. DON further up-regulated CYP17, HSD3B2, CYP11B2 and CYP11B1 and down-regulated NR5A1. T-2 toxin caused down-regulation of NR0B1 and NR5A1 whereas HT-2 toxin induced up-regulation of EPHX and HSD17B1 and down-regulation of CYP11A and CYP17. The expressions of MC2R, StAR and HSD17B4 genes were not significantly affected by any of the trichothecenes in the present study. Although the results indicate that there is no evidence to suggest that DON, T-2 and HT-2 toxins directly interact with the steroid hormone receptors to cause endocrine disruption, the present findings indicate that exposure to DON, T-2 toxin and HT-2 toxin have effects on cell viability, steroidogenesis and alteration in gene expression indicating their potential as endocrine disruptors.

Hafiz S, Dennis JC, Schwartz D, et al.
Expression of melanocortin receptors in human prostate cancer cell lines: MC2R activation by ACTH increases prostate cancer cell proliferation.
Int J Oncol. 2012; 41(4):1373-80 [PubMed] Related Publications
The melanocortin receptors (MCRs 1-5) are G protein coupled-receptors (GPCRs) that regulate food intake, inflammation, skin pigmentation, sexual function and steroidogenesis. Their peptide ligands, the melanocortins, are α-, β- and γ-melanocyte-stimulating hormone and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) all of which are secreted from the anterior pituitary gland under hypothalamic control. MC2R binds ACTH but has no affinity for the other melanocortins and is, thereby, pharmacologically different from MCRs that bind those ligands. Evidence suggests that elevated GPCRs transactivate the androgen receptor (AR), the critical mediator of prostate cell growth, and consequently promote prostate cancer cell proliferation. It may be that reduced central melanocortin signaling is coincidental with reversal of prostate cancer cachexia, but no data are available on the expression of, or the role for, MCRs in prostate cancer. Here, we show that MCR (1-5) mRNAs are expressed in androgen-dependent LNCaP and androgen-independent PC3 and DU-145 human prostate cancer cell lines. Further, MC2R, the specific target of ACTH, is expressed in LNCaP, PC3 and DU-145 cells. Among the several synthetic MCR peptide ligands that we used, only ACTH promoted concentration-dependent cell proliferation in the three cell lines as shown by MTT cell proliferation assay. In LNCaP cells, the effect was additive with testosterone stimulation and was partially blunted with SHU9119, a non-selective MCR antagonist. In the same cells, ACTH induced cAMP production and increased AR nuclear labeling in immunocytochemical assays. Our observations suggest that MC2R is involved in prostate carcinogenesis and that targeting MC2R signaling may provide a novel avenue in prostate carcinoma treatment.

Hofland J, Delhanty PJ, Steenbergen J, et al.
Melanocortin 2 receptor-associated protein (MRAP) and MRAP2 in human adrenocortical tissues: regulation of expression and association with ACTH responsiveness.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012; 97(5):E747-54 [PubMed] Related Publications
CONTEXT: ACTH stimulates adrenocortical steroid production through the melanocortin 2 receptor (MC2R). MC2R trafficking and signaling are dependent on the MC2R accessory protein (MRAP). The MRAP homolog MRAP2 also transports the MC2R to the cell surface but might prevent activation.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of the investigation was to study the regulatory pathways of MRAP and MRAP2 and their contributions to ACTH responsiveness in human adrenal tissues.
DESIGN AND SETTING: MRAP, MRAP2, and MC2R expression levels were studied in 32 human adrenocortical samples. Regulation of these mRNAs was investigated in 43 primary adrenal cultures, stimulated with ACTH, forskolin, angiotensin II (AngII), phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate (PMA), or dexamethasone. The induction of cortisol, cAMP, and ACTH-responsive genes after treatment with ACTH was related to MRAP, MRAP2, and MC2R expression levels.
RESULTS: MRAP and MRAP2 levels were lower in adrenocortical carcinomas (ACC) than in other adrenal tissues (P < 0.001). Patient ACTH and cortisol levels were associated with adrenal levels of MRAP and MC2R in adrenal hyperplasia samples (P < 0.05) but not in tumors. ACTH induced the expression of MRAP 11 ± 2.1-fold and MC2R 20 ± 3.8-fold in all adrenal tissue types (mean ± SEM, both P < 0.0001), whereas AngII augmented these mRNAs 4.0 ± 1.2-fold and 12.6 ± 3.2-fold (P < 0.0001) in all but the ACC. MRAP2 expression was suppressed by forskolin (-24 ± 15%, P = 0.013) and PMA (-22 ± 7%, P = 0.0007). MRAP, MRAP2, or MC2R levels were not associated with the induction of cortisol, cAMP, or gene expression by ACTH in vitro.
CONCLUSION: MRAP and MC2R expression is induced by ACTH and AngII, which would facilitate cell surface receptor availability. Physiological expression levels of MRAP, MRAP2, and MC2R were not limiting for ACTH sensitivity.

Willenberg HS, Späth M, Maser-Gluth C, et al.
Sporadic solitary aldosterone- and cortisol-co-secreting adenomas: endocrine, histological and genetic findings in a subtype of primary aldosteronism.
Hypertens Res. 2010; 33(5):467-72 [PubMed] Related Publications
Adrenal adenomas producing both aldosterone and cortisol (A/CPAs) have been described in only a few cases. Correct subtype classification is necessary for making therapeutic decisions in primary aldosteronism (PA). Therefore, we studied in detail the clinical, hormonal and histological features of this entity in two patients with A/CPAs. We describe two patients with A/CPA and present their endocrine evaluations at baseline, after suppression with fludrocortisone and dexamethasone, after therapy with spironolactone and after unilateral adrenalectomy. Moreover, the expression of corticotropin (MC2R) and angiotensin II type 1 (AT1R) receptors and 17alpha-hydroxylase in the tumors of these two patients was analyzed by immunohistochemistry. Aldosterone, 18-hydroxycorticosterone (18-OH-B) and 18-hydroxycortisol (18-OH-F) were not suppressible with fludrocortisone in either patient and were partly suppressible with dexamethasone in one of the patients. Adrenal insufficiency developed in both patients after operation and lasted for more than 6 months. Aldosterone and hybrid corticosteroids returned to normal 8 weeks after adrenalectomy. In both cases, immunostaining showed weak expression of AT1R and MC2R but strong expression of 17alpha-hydroxylase. The most common germline mutations in the aldosterone synthase gene and the aldosterone synthase/11beta-hydroxylase hybrid gene were absent. These two cases document the fact that sporadic A/CPA is a subtype of PA. The presence of an A/CPA should be considered if a patient has both PA and hypercortisolism.

Benoit I, Drui D, Chaillous L, et al.
A corticotroph pituitary adenoma as the initial presentation of familial glucocorticoid deficiency.
Eur J Endocrinol. 2009; 161(1):195-9 [PubMed] Related Publications
UNLABELLED: CONTEXT; Familial glucocorticoid deficiency (FGD) is a rare autosomal recessive ACTH-resistance syndrome characterized by glucocorticoid deficiency in the absence of mineralocorticoid deficiency. Here, we report the case of a young woman with a corticotroph pituitary adenoma as the initial presentation of FGD.
CASE REPORT: A 15-year-old girl was referred to our institution for a 16 mm pituitary adenoma associated with glucocorticoid deficiency. Clinical and biological features were evocative of FGD. DNA sequencing did not identify mutations in either the melanocortin 2 receptor (MC2R) or the MC2R accessory protein genes, indicating type 3 FGD. Despite adequate glucocorticoid replacement, plasma ACTH levels remained increased and pituitary magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed a progression of the tumour size resulting in optic chiasm compression with intra-tumoural haemorrhaging. When the patient was 26 years old, it was decided that she would undergo transsphenoidal surgery. The histomorphological analysis identified a well-individualized pituitary adenoma immunoreactive for ACTH. The proband's sister also exhibited type 3 FGD associated with pituitary hyperplasia upon MRI.
CONCLUSION: This case highlights the relationship between FGD and hyperplasia of ACTH-producing cells, potentially leading to histologically proven pituitary corticotroph adenomas. This observation raises the question of the pituitary MRI's significance in the follow-up of FGD.

Parmar J, Key RE, Rainey WE
Development of an adrenocorticotropin-responsive human adrenocortical carcinoma cell line.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008; 93(11):4542-6 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
CONTEXT: The molecular mechanisms regulating adrenal steroidogenesis continue to be defined. The only current human adrenocortical cell line is the NCI-H295 and its substrains. One of the strains, H295R, has retained the ability to respond to angiotensin II (Ang II); however, it lacks ACTH responsiveness. An ACTH-responsive human adrenocortical model would add significantly to studies directed at defining the molecular control of corticosteroid biosynthesis.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of the study was to develop a human adrenal cell line that retained both Ang II- and ACTH-regulated corticosteroid production.
DESIGN: Human adrenocortical carcinoma (HAC) cells were isolated from an adrenal tumor removed from a girl presenting with virilization and hypertension. Clonal populations of cells were established and characterized. HAC cells were treated with ACTH, Ang II, and forskolin, followed by examination of steroidogenic enzyme mRNA expression using quantitative real-time PCR and steroid production.
RESULTS: HAC clone 15 (HAC15) cells responded to treatment with ACTH, Ang II, and forskolin, with increased cortisol and aldosterone production. ACTH, Ang II, and forskolin also increased expression of mRNA, encoding all enzymes needed for cortisol and aldosterone biosynthesis, namely steroidogenic acute regulatory protein, cholesterol side-chain cleavage, cytochrome P450 17alpha-hydroxylase-17, 20-lyase, 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type II, 21-hydroxylase, 11beta-hydroxylase, and 11beta-aldosterone synthase. In addition, the cells expressed mRNA for ACTH receptor (MC2R) and Ang II receptor. MC2R protein was also expressed in HAC15 cells.
CONCLUSION: The current study describes the development and characterization of an ACTH- and Ang II-responsive human adrenal cell line. The HAC15 cell line should provide an important model system for defining the molecular mechanisms regulating aldosterone and cortisol production.

Serova LI, Gueorguiev V, Cheng SY, Sabban EL
Adrenocorticotropic hormone elevates gene expression for catecholamine biosynthesis in rat superior cervical ganglia and locus coeruleus by an adrenal independent mechanism.
Neuroscience. 2008; 153(4):1380-9 [PubMed] Free Access to Full Article Related Publications
Classically, upon hypothalamic stimulation, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is released from the pituitary and acts on melanocortin 2 receptors (MC2R) in the adrenal cortex, stimulating glucocorticoid synthesis and release. Our earlier studies suggested that ACTH might have a direct effect on sympathetic ganglia. To analyze further the involvement of ACTH in regulation of gene expression of norepinephrine (NE) biosynthetic enzymes, we examined the effect of bilateral adrenalectomy (ADX) of Sprague-Dawley male rats. Fourteen days post-ADX, as expected, plasma ACTH was elevated, and levels of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), dopamine beta-hydroxylase (DBH) and MC2R mRNAs in superior cervical ganglia (SCG), and TH mRNA in locus coeruleus (LC) were increased compared with sham-operated animals. To determine effect of pulsatile elevation of ACTH, corticosterone pellets were implanted to ADX rats. Similar to immobilization (IMO) stress ACTH injections to these animals caused a rise in ACTH in plasma and triggered elevation of TH and DBH mRNAs in SCG and in LC with single and repeated daily injections, and MC2R mRNA in SCG with single injections. To study the effect of ACTH in isolated cells, primary cultures of rat SCG were transfected with TH and DBH promoter constructs and treated with ACTH. In agreement with the in vivo data, ACTH elevated their promoter activities similar to levels triggered by cyclic AMP analog. ACTH in the human SK-N-SH neuroblastoma cells increased TH and DBH promoter activity and endogenous DBH mRNA levels. The results show that ACTH can have a direct effect on transcription and gene expression of NE biosynthetic enzymes even without contribution of adrenal hormones.

Wolf A, Willenberg HS, Cupisti K, et al.
Adrenal pheochromocytoma with contralateral cortisol-producing adrenal adenoma: diagnostic and therapeutic management.
Horm Metab Res. 2005; 37(6):391-5 [PubMed] Related Publications
There is evidence for a close interrelation between the adrenomedullary and adrenocortical tissues, and there are well-characterized models of their paracrine interaction. To contribute to the studies of systemic interactions between these tissues, we studied a 52-year-old female patient with a pheochromocytoma and a contralateral cortisol-producing adenoma. Due to a misunderstanding, she presented to her family doctor to have an inherited kidney disease ruled out. An adrenal mass was discovered incidentally by ultrasound. A computerized tomography of the abdomen revealed bilateral adrenal masses. Due to excess catecholamine secretion, bilateral pheochromocytomas based on multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome were suspected. Laboratory work-up, selective adrenal venous sampling and magnetic resonance imaging studies established the diagnosis of a pheochromocytoma in the right-hand adrenal gland and a cortisol-producing adenoma on the left. Simultaneous bilateral laparoscopic subtotal adrenalectomy was performed. Immunohistochemistry showed positive staining against chromogranin A in a histological specimen obtained from the right-hand adrenal gland, while the left was negative; the left-hand adrenal gland stained positive against the ACTH receptor (MC2R) while the right was negative. Genetically, the patient was negative for MEN2, von Hippel-Lindau disease, and mutations in subunits B, C, and D of the succinate dehydrogenase gene. Although presence of bilateral adrenal adenomas or bilateral adrenal pheochromocytomas in certain inherited disorders are possible, this rare case of an adrenal pheochromocytoma combined with a contralateral cortisol-producing adrenal adenoma may further underline the wide range of complex interactions between the two endocrine systems.

Zwermann O, Beuschlein F, Klink A, et al.
The role of the ACTH receptor in adrenal tumors: identification of a novel microsatellite marker.
Horm Metab Res. 2004; 36(6):406-10 [PubMed] Related Publications
In vitro, the growth inhibiting effect of ACTH on adrenocortical cells is well documented, even though there are reports of opposite effects under defined cell culture conditions. In vivo, activation of the ACTH receptor (ACTHR) has a trophic effect on the adrenal cortex, while the effects on proliferation are still under discussion, especially since other POMC derived peptides have been characterized. However, ACTH is thought to act as a differentiation factor with inhibiting effects on tumor growth. In undifferentiated adrenocortical carcinomas, ACTHR expression is frequently lost, which is associated with extensive tumor growth. We describe a new microsatellite marker within the intron of the ACTHR gene termed ACTHRint1. In a series of 114 patients with various adrenal and non-adrenal tumors, the rate of heterozygosity was 100 %. Only one out of 57 patients with adrenocortical adenoma showed LOH at the ACTHR locus, whereas 4 of 10 carcinomas had loss of one allele. Patients suffering from tumors with LOH showed a more aggressive disease course and had earlier recurrences with poor prognosis. These data confirm earlier findings that adrenocortical carcinomas frequently show loss of ACTHR expression, which is associated with a more aggressive tumor growth. However, whether the ACTHR is directly involved in tumor growth or acts a marker of differentiation that is lost in more advanced tumor stages is still not clear.

Bourdeau I, Stratakis CA
Cyclic AMP-dependent signaling aberrations in macronodular adrenal disease.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002; 968:240-55 [PubMed] Related Publications
The adrenal glands are a major source of steroid hormone biosynthesis. In normal physiology, the pituitary hormone corticotropin (ACTH) regulates the secretion of glucocorticoids via its G protein-coupled receptor (ACTHR), the product of the MC2R gene. Aldosterone is another major product of the adrenal gland; its regulation is controlled mainly by the renin-angiotensin system, although ACTH plays a role, too, especially under certain pathological conditions. The adrenal gland also secretes lesser amounts of androgens and intermediate metabolites of all these steroids. Unregulated secretion of any of these hormones can be caused by tumors, adrenocortical adenomas or carcinomas, and/or bilateral (or, rarely, unilateral) hyperplasia. Cortisol-producing hyperplasia of the adrenal glands is caused by two distinct syndromes, both of which have been directly or indirectly associated with protein kinase A signaling: (i) primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease (PPNAD) (a micronodular form of bilateral adrenal hyperplasia), either isolated (rarely) or in the context of Carney complex, is caused (in most cases) by mutations of the PRKAR1A gene; and (ii) ACTH-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (AIMAH), or massive macronodular adrenal disease (MMAD), has been associated with aberrant (ectopic) expression, and presumably regulation, of various G protein-coupled receptors. AIMAH is a rare, sporadic condition affecting predominantly middle-aged men and women with an almost equal ratio (the latter in contrast to other forms of endogenous Cushing's syndrome). Some familial cases of AIMAH have also been described, and it appears that the pathophysiological phenomena underlying AIMAH may be present in the far more common, sporadic adrenocortical tumors and, perhaps, in the nodular growth detected in the adrenal glands of the elderly in the general population. Thus, the study of ectopic receptor expression and cAMP-dependent PKA activity in AIMAH may have wider implications for adrenal and, indeed, endocrine tumorigenesis.

Lin CJ, Jorge AA, Latronico AC, et al.
Origin of an ovarian steroid cell tumor causing isosexual pseudoprecocious puberty demonstrated by the expression of adrenal steroidogenic enzymes and adrenocorticotropin receptor.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000; 85(3):1211-4 [PubMed] Related Publications
Ovarian steroid cell tumors are rare neoplasms composed of typical steroid hormone-secreting cells. Most ovarian steroid cell tumors, however, cannot be appropriately classified on a morphological basis, because the neoplastic cells closely resemble adrenal cortical cells. Nevertheless, the true adrenal origin of such tumors has been difficult to demonstrate. Here we report a 3-yr-old girl with isosexual pseudoprecocious puberty due to an ovarian steroid tumor whose adrenal cell origin was determined by the presence of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) of adrenal-specific steroidogenic P450 enzymes (P450c11 and P450c21) and ACTH receptor (ACTHR). Her height was +2.3 SD, and she had Tanner stage III breast development, Tanner stage II pubic hair, and a normal clitoris. Bone age was 5 yr. Basal gonadotropin levels were undetectable (<0.6 U/L for LH and <1.0 U/L for FSH) and remained undetectable after stimulation with 100 microg GnRH, i.v. Basal serum testosterone and 17-hydroxyprogesterone levels were slightly elevated, whereas basal serum androstenedione, estradiol, and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels were clearly elevated. Pelvic ultrasound disclosed an enlarged uterus and an adnexal multicystic mass in the right ovary, and pathological studies disclosed an ovarian steroid cell tumor. To establish the cellular origin of the tumor we determined the presence of mRNA for P450c11, P450c21, and ACTHR in tumor tissue and normal adrenal and ovarian tissue. Detection of ACTHR, P450c21, and P450c11 mRNAs isoforms was achieved in tumoral and adrenal control tissue, but not in the ovary control tissue. The RT-PCR products of P450c11 from adrenal control tissue were composed by both BglI-sensitive and -resistant complementary DNAs, indicating the presence of both P450c11AS and P450c11beta, whereas RT-PCR product from the tumor was resistant to BglI digestion, indicating only the presence of P450c11beta. We conclude that the histological origin of so-called adrenal rest tumor could be reliably determined by assessing the expression of specific genes in the tumor as P450c11beta and P450c21. The use ofthese molecular tools will allow a more precise classification of an important subset of the ovarian steroid cell tumors and can help to identify ectopic adrenal tissue in ovary and testis.

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