Germline mutations in FH confer predisposition to malignant pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas

Hum Mol Genet. 2014 May 1;23(9):2440-6. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddt639. Epub 2013 Dec 13.


Malignant pheochromocytoma (PCC) and paraganglioma (PGL) are mostly caused by germline mutations of SDHB, encoding a subunit of succinate dehydrogenase. Using whole-exome sequencing, we recently identified a mutation in the FH gene encoding fumarate hydratase, in a PCC with an 'SDH-like' molecular phenotype. Here, we investigated the role of FH in PCC/PGL predisposition, by screening for germline FH mutations in a large international cohort of patients. We screened 598 patients with PCC/PGL without mutations in known PCC/PGL susceptibility genes. We searched for FH germline mutations and large deletions, by direct sequencing and multiplex ligation-dependent probe amplification methods. Global alterations in DNA methylation and protein succination were assessed by immunohistochemical staining for 5-hydroxymethylcytosine (5-hmC) and S-(2-succinyl) cysteine (2SC), respectively. We identified five pathogenic germline FH mutations (four missense and one splice mutation) in five patients. Somatic inactivation of the second allele, resulting in a loss of fumarate hydratase activity, was demonstrated in tumors with FH mutations. Low tumor levels of 5-hmC, resembling those in SDHB-deficient tumors, and positive 2SC staining were detected in tumors with FH mutations. Clinically, metastatic phenotype (P = 0.007) and multiple tumors (P = 0.02) were significantly more frequent in patients with FH mutations than those without such mutations. This study reveals a new role for FH in susceptibility to malignant and/or multiple PCC/PGL. Remarkably, FH-deficient PCC/PGLs display the same pattern of epigenetic deregulation as SDHB-mutated malignant PCC/PGL. Therefore, we propose that mutation screening for FH should be included in PCC/PGL genetic testing, at least for tumors with malignant behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Exons / genetics
  • Female
  • Fumarate Hydratase / genetics*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Germ-Line Mutation / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Paraganglioma / genetics*
  • Pheochromocytoma / genetics*
  • Young Adult


  • Fumarate Hydratase