Does kidney transplantation normalise cortisol metabolism in apparent mineralocorticoid excess syndrome?

J Endocrinol Invest. Jul-Aug 2000;23(7):457-62. doi: 10.1007/BF03343755.


The syndrome of apparent mineralocorticoid syndrome (AME) results from defective 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 2 (11beta-HSD2). This enzyme is co-expressed with the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in the kidney and converts cortisol to its inactive metabolite cortisone. Its deficiency allows the unmetabolized cortisol to bind to the MR inducing sodium retention, suppression of PRA and hypertension. Thus, the syndrome is a disorder of the kidney. We present here the first patient affected by AME cured by kidney transplantation. Formerly, she was considered to have a mild form of the syndrome (Type II), but progressively she developed renal failure which required dialysis and subsequent kidney transplantation. To test the ability of the transplanted kidney to normalise the patient's cortisol metabolism, we gave, in two different experiments, 25 and 50 mg/day of cortisone acetate or 15 and 30 mg/day of cortisol after inhibition of the endogenous cortisol by synthetic glucocorticoid (methylprednisolone and dexamethasone). The AME diagnostic urinary steroid ratios tetrahydrocortisol+5alphatetrahydrocortisol/tetrahydrocortisone and cortisol/cortisone were measured by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Transplantation resulted in lowering blood pressure and in normalization of serum K and PRA. After administration of a physiological dose of cortisol (15 mg/day), the urinary free cortisol/cortisone ratio was corrected (in contrast to the A-ring reduced metabolites ratio), confirming that the new kidney had functional 11beta-HSD2. This ratio was abnormally high when the supra-physiological dose of cortisol 30 mg/day was given. After cortisone administration, the tetrahydrocortisol+5alphatetrahydrocortisol/tetrahydrocortisone ratio resulted normalised with both physiological and supra-physiological doses, confirming that the hepatic reductase activity is not affected. As expected, the urinary free cortisol/cortisone ratio was normal with physiological, but increased after supra-physiological doses of cortisone. The described case indicates a normalisation of cortisol metabolism after kidney transplantation in AME patient and confirms the supposed pathophysiology of the syndrome. Moreover, it suggests a new therapeutic strategy in particularly vulnerable cohorts of patients inadequately responsive to drug therapy or with kidney failure.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cortisone / administration & dosage
  • Cortisone / urine
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / administration & dosage
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Hydrocortisone / urine
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / deficiency*
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Hypertension / therapy
  • Isoenzymes / deficiency*
  • Kidney / enzymology
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Kidney Transplantation*
  • Potassium / blood
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid / metabolism*
  • Renal Insufficiency / etiology*
  • Renal Insufficiency / surgery
  • Renin / blood
  • Syndrome
  • Tetrahydrocortisol / urine
  • Tetrahydrocortisone / urine


  • Isoenzymes
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid
  • Tetrahydrocortisone
  • Tetrahydrocortisol
  • Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • Renin
  • Potassium
  • Cortisone
  • Hydrocortisone