Genetics and clinical characteristics of hereditary pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas

Endocr Relat Cancer. 2011 Dec 1;18(6):R253-76. doi: 10.1530/ERC-11-0170. Print 2011 Dec.


Pheochromocytomas (PCCs) and paragangliomas (PGLs) are rare neuroendocrine tumors of the adrenal glands and the sympathetic and parasympathetic paraganglia. They can occur sporadically or as a part of different hereditary tumor syndromes. About 30% of PCCs and PGLs are currently believed to be caused by germline mutations and several novel susceptibility genes have recently been discovered. The clinical presentation, including localization, malignant potential, and age of onset, varies depending on the genetic background of the tumors. By reviewing more than 1700 reported cases of hereditary PCC and PGL, a thorough summary of the genetics and clinical features of these tumors is given, both as part of the classical syndromes such as multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN2), von Hippel-Lindau disease, neurofibromatosis type 1, and succinate dehydrogenase-related PCC-PGL and within syndromes associated with a smaller fraction of PCCs/PGLs, such as Carney triad, Carney-Stratakis syndrome, and MEN1. The review also covers the most recently discovered susceptibility genes including KIF1Bβ, EGLN1/PHD2, SDHAF2, TMEM127, SDHA, and MAX, as well as a comparison with the sporadic form. Further, the latest advances in elucidating the cellular pathways involved in PCC and PGL development are discussed in detail. Finally, an algorithm for genetic testing in patients with PCC and PGL is proposed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Endocrine Gland Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Humans
  • Paraganglioma / genetics*
  • Pheochromocytoma / genetics*