Adrenal cortex remodeling and functional zona glomerulosa hyperplasia in primary aldosteronism

Hypertension. 2010 Nov;56(5):885-92. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.110.158543. Epub 2010 Oct 11.


Primary aldosteronism is the most common form of secondary hypertension with hypokalemia and suppressed renin-angiotensin system caused by autonomous aldosterone production. Our aim was to compare zona glomerulosa (ZG) structure and function between control adrenals and the peritumoral tissue from patients operated on for aldosterone-producing adenoma. ZG morphology and CYP11B1, CYP11B2, and disabled 2 expression were studied in 15 control adrenals and 25 adrenals with aldosterone-producing adenoma. A transcriptome analysis was done using publicly available data sets. In control adrenals, ZG was discontinuous, and CYP11B2 expression was focal or partly continuous and localized to 3 structures, foci, megafoci, and aldosterone-producing cell clusters. CYP11B2 expression was restricted to a limited number of ZG cells expressing Dab2 but not CYP11B1; aldosterone-producing cell clusters were composed of cells with an intermediate phenotype expressing CYP11B2 but not disabled 2 or CYP11B1. In peritumoral tissue, large remodeling of the adrenal cortex was observed with increased nodulation and decreased vascularization that were not correlated with CYP11B2 expression. In 17 out of 25 adrenals, hyperplasia of adjacent ZG was observed with persistent expression of CYP11B2 that was extended to the entire ZG. In all of the adrenals from patients with aldosterone-producing adenoma, CYP11B2 expression was present in foci, megafoci, and aldosterone-producing cell clusters. Transcriptome profiling indicates a close relationship between peritumoral and control adrenal cortex. In conclusion, adrenal cortex remodeling, reduced vascularization, and ZG hyperplasia are major features of adrenals with aldosterone-producing adenoma. Transcriptional phenotyping is not in favor of this being an intermediate step toward the formation of aldosterone-producing adenoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / genetics
  • Adenoma / metabolism
  • Adenoma / pathology*
  • Adrenal Cortex / metabolism
  • Adrenal Cortex / pathology*
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / genetics
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Adrenal Cortex Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Adult
  • Aldosterone / biosynthesis
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP11B2 / genetics
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP11B2 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperaldosteronism / genetics
  • Hyperaldosteronism / metabolism
  • Hyperaldosteronism / pathology*
  • Hyperplasia / pathology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Steroid 11-beta-Hydroxylase / genetics
  • Steroid 11-beta-Hydroxylase / metabolism
  • Zona Glomerulosa / metabolism
  • Zona Glomerulosa / pathology*


  • Aldosterone
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP11B2
  • Steroid 11-beta-Hydroxylase