Genetic Causes of Primary Aldosteronism


Primary aldosteronism is characterized by at least partially autonomous production of the adrenal steroid hormone aldosterone and is the most common cause of secondary hypertension. The most frequent subforms are idiopathic hyperaldosteronism and aldosterone-producing adenoma. Rare causes include unilateral hyperplasia, adrenocortical carcinoma and Mendelian forms (familial hyperaldosteronism). Studies conducted in the last eight years have identified somatic driver mutations in a substantial portion of aldosterone-producing adenomas, including the genes KCNJ5 (encoding inwardly rectifying potassium channel GIRK4), CACNA1D (encoding a subunit of L-type voltage-gated calcium channel CaV1.3), ATP1A1 (encoding a subunit of Na+/K+-ATPase), ATP2B3 (encoding a Ca2+-ATPase), and CTNNB1 (encoding ß-catenin). In addition, aldosterone-producing cells were recently reported to form small clusters (aldosterone-producing cell clusters) beneath the adrenal capsule. Such clusters accumulate with age and appear to be more frequent in individuals with idiopathic hyperaldosteronism. The fact that they are associated with somatic mutations implicated in aldosterone-producing adenomas also suggests a precursor function for adenomas. Rare germline variants of CYP11B2 (encoding aldosterone synthase), CLCN2 (encoding voltage-gated chloride channel ClC-2), KCNJ5CACNA1H (encoding a subunit of T-type voltage-gated calcium channel CaV3.2), and CACNA1D have been reported in different subtypes of familial hyperaldosteronism. Collectively, these studies suggest that primary aldosteronism is largely due to genetic mutations in single genes, with potential implications for diagnosis and therapy.

Authors: Eric Seidel, Julia Schewe, Ute I. Scholl
Keywords: somatic mutations, genome, APCC, genome-wide association study
DOI Number: 10.1038/s12276-019-0337-9      Publication Year: 2019

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