Molecular pathogenesis of primary hyperparathyroidism

J Bone Miner Res. 2002 Nov;17 Suppl 2:N30-6.


This article will primarily focus on the molecular pathogenesis of common, sporadic (nonfamilial) parathyroid adenomas; two genes currently have established roles in the development of these tumors. The cyclin D1/PRAD1 gene was identified as a clonally activated oncogene in parathyroid adenomas and has subsequently been established as a major contributor to human neoplasia. Overexpression of cyclin D1, a key regulator of the cell cycle, has been implicated in the pathogenesis of 20-40% of sporadic parathyroid adenomas. That such cyclin D1 overexpression indeed constitutes a stimulus to excessive parathyroid cell proliferation has been confirmed experimentally by the development of a transgenic mouse model with parathyroid-targeted overexpression of cyclin D1. Parathyroid hormone (PTH)-cyclin D1 transgenic mice develop parathyroid hypercellularity, biochemical hyperparathyroidism, and a shifted in vivo parathyroid-calcium setpoint; these mice constitute an animal model of human hyperparathyroidism in which aspects of tumorigenesis, parathyroid secretory setpoint control, and the pathophysiology of the chronic hyperparathyroid state can be further investigated. The MEN1 tumor suppressor is the only other gene to date with an established role in the pathogenesis of sporadic parathyroid adenomatosis. Specific clonal alterations involving somatic mutation and/or deletion of both MEN1 alleles have been demonstrated in about 15-20% of sporadic parathyroid adenomas. Allelic losses on 11q occur in roughly twice this number of adenomas, raising the still-unresolved possibility that an additional tumor suppressor gene on 11q may be the functional target of many of these acquired deletions. A mouse model of MEN1 deficiency causes a phenotype that includes parathyroid hypercellularity albeit unaccompanied by biochemical hyperparathyroidism, and additional mouse models in which menin deficiency is targeted to the parathyroids will likely provide additional important insights. The MEN1 gene product menin may have a role in transcriptional regulation involving JunD; several other menin-interacting proteins have also been identified. The in vivo mechanism of menin's actions, with special attention to its role as a parathyroid oncosuppressor, will be important to establish, as will the potential interrelationships between these pathways and those involving cyclin D1. A number of genes, put forth as candidate tumor suppressors based on their genomic locations, roles in familial disease, and/or other relevant biological functions, have been examined for pathogenetic mutations in sporadic parathyroid tumors with negative results; these include the calcium-sensing receptor protein (CaR), vitamin-D receptor (VDR), and RET. However, the CaR, which when partially or markedly deficient because of germline mutation can cause familial hypocalciuric hypercalcemia or neonatal severe hyperparathyroidism, must still be considered as having a potentially important secondary role in the manifestations of sporadic parathyroid tumors. Future goals include identifying additional parathyroid oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes; exploiting tools of complex trait genetics to ascertain whether development of "sporadic" hyperparathyroidism might be influenced by predisposing polymorphic alleles in the population; obtaining molecular insights into the relationship between proliferative and hormone regulatory abnormalities of hyperparathyroidism; and obtaining molecular insights into the observed association of parathyroid neoplasia with exposure to ionizing irradiation and with the postmenopausal state.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / complications
  • Adenoma / genetics*
  • Adenoma / pathology
  • Cyclin D1 / genetics*
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Drosophila Proteins*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Hyperparathyroidism / complications
  • Hyperparathyroidism / pathology
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / complications
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Parathyroid Neoplasms / pathology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / genetics
  • Receptors, Calcitriol / metabolism
  • Receptors, Calcium-Sensing
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism


  • Drosophila Proteins
  • MEN1 protein, human
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptors, Calcitriol
  • Receptors, Calcium-Sensing
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Cyclin D1
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • Receptor Protein-Tyrosine Kinases
  • Ret protein, Drosophila