Correlation between in vivo 18F-FDG PET and immunohistochemical markers of glucose uptake and metabolism in pheochromocytoma and paraganglioma

Anouk van Berkel, Jyotsna U Rao, Benno Kusters, Tuna Demir, Eric Visser, Arjen R Mensenkamp, Jeroen A W M van der Laak, Egbert Oosterwijk, Jacques W M Lenders, Fred C G J Sweep, Ron A Wevers, Ad R Hermus, Johan F Langenhuijsen, Dirk P M Kunst, Karel Pacak, Martin Gotthardt, Henri J L M Timmers
Journal of Nuclear Medicine 2014, 55 (8): 1253-9

UNLABELLED: Pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas (PPGLs) can be localized by (18)F-FDG PET. The uptake is particularly high in tumors with an underlying succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) mutation. SDHx-related PPGLs are characterized by compromised oxidative phosphorylation and a pseudohypoxic response, which mediates an increase in aerobic glycolysis, also known as the Warburg effect. The aim of this study was to explore the hypothesis that increased uptake of (18)F-FDG in SDHx-related PPGLs is reflective of increased glycolytic activity and is correlated with expression of different proteins involved in glucose uptake and metabolism through the glycolytic pathway.

METHODS: Twenty-seven PPGLs collected from patients with hereditary mutations in SDHB (n = 2), SDHD (n = 3), RET (n = 5), neurofibromatosis 1 (n = 1), and myc-associated factor X (n = 1) and sporadic patients (n = 15) were investigated. Preoperative (18)F-FDG PET/CT studies were analyzed; mean and maximum standardized uptake values (SUVs) in manually drawn regions of interest were calculated. The expression of proteins involved in glucose uptake (glucose transporters types 1 and 3 [GLUT-1 and -3, respectively]), phosphorylation (hexokinases 1, 2, and 3 [HK-1, -2, and -3, respectively]), glycolysis (monocarboxylate transporter type 4 [MCT-4]), and angiogenesis (vascular endothelial growth factor [VEGF], CD34) were examined in paraffin-embedded tumor tissues using immunohistochemical staining with peroxidase-catalyzed polymerization of diaminobenzidine as a read-out. The expression was correlated with corresponding SUVs.

RESULTS: Both maximum and mean SUVs for SDHx-related tumors were significantly higher than those for sporadic and other hereditary tumors (P < 0.01). The expression of HK-2 and HK-3 was significantly higher in SDHx-related PPGLs than in sporadic PPGLs (P = 0.022 and 0.025, respectively). The expression of HK-2 and VEGF was significantly higher in SDHx-related PPGLs than in other hereditary PPGLs (P = 0.039 and 0.008, respectively). No statistical differences in the expression were observed for GLUT-1, GLUT-3, and MCT-4. The percentage anti-CD 34 staining and mean vessel perimeter were significantly higher in SDHx-related PPGLs than in sporadic tumors (P = 0.050 and 0.010, respectively). Mean SUVs significantly correlated with the expression of HK-2 (P = 0.027), HK-3 (P = 0.013), VEGF (P = 0.049), and MCT-4 (P = 0.020).

CONCLUSION: The activation of aerobic glycolysis in SDHx-related PPGLs is associated with increased (18)F-FDG accumulation due to accelerated glucose phosphorylation by hexokinases rather than increased expression of glucose transporters.

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