A 60-year-old woman presented with a history of palpitations, headaches and severe hypertension, which was resistant to hypotensive agents. She had a 2-year history of obesity and a moon face. Her plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone level was below the limits of detection and did not respond to corticotropin-releasing hormone. Urinary-free cortisol was elevated and the circadian rhythm of serum cortisol level had completely disappeared. Imaging analysis demonstrated a unilaterally functioning mass in the left adrenal gland. Serum cortisol level in the left adrenal vein was elevated. The resected adrenal mass measured 4 × 3.5 × 2.5 cm, and ranged from yellow to tan in color. The adrenal cortex adjacent to the nodule did not demonstrate cortical atrophy. The mass was well circumscribed but not encapsulated, and consisted of multiple cortical nodules. These nodules were composed predominantly of clear cortical cells, and partly of compact cortical cells. Immunoreactivity of steroidogenic enzymes including cholesterol side-chain-cleavage P450, 3β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase, 21-hydroxylase cytechrome P450, 11β-hydroxylase cytochrome P450 and 17α-hydroxylase cytochrome P450 was marked in cortical nodules, but minimal in non-nodular cortex. Ultrastructural examination of nodular cortical cells also demonstrated well-developed mitochondria and smooth endoplasmic reticulum, consistent with elevated steroidogenesis in these cells.
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