Clinical and molecular features of the Carney complex: diagnostic criteria and recommendations for patient evaluation

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Sep;86(9):4041-6. doi: 10.1210/jcem.86.9.7903.


Carney complex is a multiple neoplasia syndrome featuring cardiac, endocrine, cutaneous, and neural tumors, as well as a variety of pigmented lesions of the skin and mucosae. Carney complex is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait and may simultaneously involve multiple endocrine glands, as in the classic multiple endocrine neoplasia syndromes 1 and 2. Carney complex also has some similarities to McCuneAlbright syndrome, a sporadic condition that is also characterized by multiple endocrine and nonendocrine tumors. Carney complex shares skin abnormalities and some nonendocrine tumors with the lentiginoses and certain of the hamartomatoses, particularly Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, with which it shares mucosal lentiginosis and an unusual gonadal tumor, large-cell calcifying Sertoli cell tumor. Careful clinical analysis has enabled positional cloning efforts to identify two chromosomal loci harboring potential candidate genes for Carney complex. Most recently, at the 17q22-24 locus, the tumor suppressor gene PRKAR1A, coding for the type 1alpha regulatory subunit of PKA, was found to be mutated in approximately half of the known Carney complex kindreds. PRKAR1A acts a classic tumor suppressor gene as demonstrated by loss of heterozygosity at the 17q22-24 locus in tumors associated with the complex. The second locus, at chromosome 2p16, to which most (but not all) of the remaining kindreds map, is also involved in the molecular pathogenesis of Carney complex tumors, as demonstrated by multiple genetic changes at this locus, including loss of heterozygosity and copy number gain. Despite the known genetic heterogeneity in the disease, clinical analysis has not detected any corresponding phenotypic differences between patients with PRKAR1A mutations and those without. This article summarizes the clinical manifestations of Carney complex from a worldwide collection of affected patients and also presents revised diagnostic criteria for Carney complex. In light of the recent identification of mutations in the PRKAR1A gene, an estimate of penetrance and recommendations for genetic screening are provided.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia / diagnosis*
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia / epidemiology
  • Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia / genetics*
  • Syndrome