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Microarray, qPCR, and KCNJ5 sequencing of aldosterone-producing adenomas reveal differences in genotype and phenotype between zona glomerulosa- and zona fasciculata-like tumors.

CONTEXT: Aldosterone-producing adenomas (APA) are heterogeneous. The recent finding of somatic KCNJ5 mutations suggests a genetic explanation.

OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were the following: 1) to compare transcriptional profiles in APA and adjacent adrenal gland (AAG); 2) to test whether gene expression profile clusters with different cell histology; and 3) to measure the frequency of KCNJ5 mutations and determine the genotype-phenotype relationship.

DESIGN/SETTING: The design of the study included laboratory analyses of 46 unselected APA.

PATIENTS: The patients in this study had primary hyperaldosteronism with unilateral APA.

INTERVENTIONS: The objectives of this study were the following: 1) Illumina beadchip analysis of RNA from eight paired APA-AAG; 2) a blinded review of cell histology for 46 APA; 3) laser capture microdissection of zona glomerulosa (ZG) and zona fasciculata (ZF) cells; and 4) sequencing of KCNJ5 in 46 APA.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The main outcome measures of this study were the following: 1) a difference in gene expression profile and a correlation with histological markers of ZF; 2) a frequency of KCNJ5 mutations and phenotypic comparisons of wild type with mutant APA.

RESULTS: The results of the study were the following: 1) a cluster analysis of microarray data separated APA from AAG. APA at opposite ends of the APA cluster had an approximately 800-fold difference in CYP17A1 mRNA expression, whereas histology showed 0% ZF-like cells in one vs. 100% in the other. A heat map ranking APA by CYP17A1 expression correctly predicted several genes (e.g. KCNK1, SLC24A3) to be enriched in laser capture microdissection samples of ZG; 2) known or novel mutations of KCNJ5 were found in 20 of 46 consecutive APA [43% (95% confidence interval [CI] (29, 58)%)]. The APA with KCNJ5 gene mutations were larger compared with tumors harboring the wild type, 1.63 [95% CI (1.37, 1.88)] vs. 1.14 [0.97, 1.30] cm (P = 0.0013), had predominantly ZF-like cells, and their CYP17A1 (log(2)-fold change) was higher than in wild type: -0.96 [95% CI (-0.07, -1.85)] vs. -2.54 [-1.61, -3.46], (P = 0.017).

CONCLUSIONS: KCNJ5 mutations are common in APA, particularly those arising from ZF. The long-recognized heterogeneity among APA may have a genetic basis.

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