Where Birt-Hogg-Dubé meets Cowden syndrome: mirrored genetic defects in two cases of syndromic oncocytic tumours

Eur J Hum Genet. 2013 Oct;21(10):1169-72. doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2013.8. Epub 2013 Feb 6.


Birt-Hogg-Dubè (BHD) is an autosomal dominant syndrome characterised by skin fibrofolliculomas, lung cysts, spontaneous pneumothorax and renal cancer. The association of benign cutaneous lesions and increased cancer risk is also a feature of Cowden Syndrome (CS), an autosomal dominant disease caused by PTEN mutations. BHD and CS patients may develop oncocytomas, rare neoplasias that are phenotypically characterised by a prominent mitochondrial hyperplasia. We here describe the genetic analysis of a parotid and a thyroid oncocytoma, developed by a BHD and a CS patient, respectively. The BHD lesion was shown to maintain the wild-type allele of FLCN, while losing one PTEN allele. On the other hand, a double heterozygosity for the same two genes was found to be the only detectable tumorigenic hit in the CS oncocytoma. Both conditions occurred in a context of high chromosomal stability, as highlighted by comparative genomic hybridisation analysis. We conclude that, similarly to PTEN, FLCN may not always follow the classical Two Hits model of tumorigenesis and may hence belong to a class of non-canonical tumour suppressor genes. We hence introduce a role of PTEN/FLCN double heterozygosity in syndromic oncocytic tumorigenesis, suggesting this to be an alternative determinant to pathogenic mitochondrial DNA mutations, which are instead the genetic hallmark of sporadic oncocytic tumours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Oxyphilic / genetics*
  • Alleles
  • Birt-Hogg-Dube Syndrome / genetics*
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics
  • Chromosomal Instability
  • Hamartoma Syndrome, Multiple / genetics*
  • Heterozygote
  • Humans
  • Male
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase / genetics
  • Parotid Neoplasms / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics


  • FLCN protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • PTEN Phosphohydrolase
  • PTEN protein, human