Adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent Cushing's syndrome

Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2007 Jun;14(3):219-25. doi: 10.1097/MED.0b013e32814db842.


Purpose of review: Endogenous Cushing's syndrome is adrenocorticotropic hormone (or corticotropin)-independent in 15-20% of cases. Primary Cushing's syndrome is most often secondary to adrenocortical adenomas or carcinomas, and more rarely to bilateral adrenal hyperplasias. Corticotropin-independent cortisol-producing hyperplasia is caused by micronodular diseases, including primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease and nonpigmented micronodular hyperplasia and adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia. Primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease can be found either alone or in the context of Carney complex, a multiple endocrine neoplasia syndrome.

Recent findings: In recent years, the pathophysiology of adrenocortical tumors and hyperplasias became better understood following the identification of genes responsible for syndromes associated with corticotropin-independent Cushing's syndrome and the demonstration of aberrant expression and function of various hormone receptors in adrenocortical adenomas and adrenocorticotropic hormone-independent macronodular adrenal hyperplasia. This article reviews findings on the molecular and genetic aspects of corticotropin-independent Cushing's syndrome including recent gene expression profiling studies of adrenocortical tumors and hyperplasias and animal models that provided clues on the pathogenesis of primary Cushing's syndrome.

Summary: A better understanding of molecular mechanisms involved in adrenocortical tumors and hyperplasias may lead to improved diagnostic and prognostic markers and treatment strategies to assist clinicians in the management of corticotropin-independent Cushing's syndrome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Diseases / complications*
  • Adrenal Cortex Diseases / genetics
  • Adrenal Cortex Diseases / metabolism
  • Adrenal Cortex Diseases / pathology
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / complications*
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / genetics
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cushing Syndrome / etiology*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Hyperplasia


  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone