Dexamethasone-nonsuppressible cortisol in two cases with aldosterone-producing adenoma

Tsuneo Imai, Hisao Seo, Yoshiharu Murata, Hiroomi Funahashi, Yasuyuki Satoh, Hironobu Sasano, Nobuo Matsui, Hiroshi Takagi

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Forty-one patients with aldosterone-producing adenoma (APA) were subjected to a dexamethasone suppression test (DST) before surgery. Serum cortisol and urinary excretion of 17-hydroxycorticosteroids were suppressed by dexamethasone in 39 patients [DST(+)]. In two patients (cases A and B), they were not suppressed [DST(–)]. Clinical manifestations of the two DST(-) patients were similar to those of DST(+) patients. Hypertension, hypokalemia, high serum aldosterone levels, and suppressed PRA were found in all of the patients. The cut surfaces of the adenomas from all of the patients, including cases A and B, were golden yellow, which is typical of APA. However, atrophies of the adjacent normal tissues were evident exclusively in the two DST(-) patients. After removal of the affected adrenals, the serum cortisol level was suppressed by dexamethasone in one of the DST(-) patients (case B). These findings suggested autonomous cortisol production by APA. To evaluate whether cortisol could be produced from the adenoma tissue, the presence of several steroidogenic enzymes was studied by immunohistochemistry and mRNA analysis in the adenomas and the adjacent nonneoplastic adrenals from the 2 DST(-) and 5 DST(+) patients. Immunohistochemical analysis demonstrated that steroidogenic enzymes were expressed in APA tumor tissues from both DST(-) and DST(+) patients. In both groups, mRNAs coding steroidogenic enzymes were present not only in the nonneoplastic but also in the tumor tissues. Quantitative analysis of the mRNA levels revealed that in the adrenals from DST(+) patients, the mRNAs were more abundant in nonneoplastic tissue than in tumor tissue. However, in those from DST(-) cases, the mRNAs were much more abundant in the tumor tissues than in the nonneoplastic tissues. These results indicate that tumor cells of the two DST(-) patients autonomously synthesized not only aldosterone but also cortisol. The diameters of the tumors from the two DST(-) patients exceeded 3 cm, while those from other DST(+) patients were smaller. In patients with large APA, adrenal insufficiency should be anticipated upon removal of the tumor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)575-581
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1991 Mar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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