Context: Primary macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (PMAH) is a rare cause of Cushing's syndrome, usually characterized by functioning adrenal macronodules and increased cortisol production. Familial clustering of PMAH has been described, suggesting an inherited genetic cause for this condition.
Objective: The aim of the present study was to identify the gene responsible for familial PMAH.
Patients and methods: Forty-seven individuals of a Brazilian family with PMAH were evaluated. A single-nucleotide polymorphism-based genome-wide linkage analysis followed by whole-exome sequencing were then performed in selected family members. Additionally, 29 other patients with PMAH and 125 randomly selected healthy individuals were studied to validate the genetic findings. Moreover, PMAH tissue was also analyzed through whole-exome sequencing, conventional sequencing, and microsatellite analysis.
Results: A heterozygous germline variant in the ARMC5 gene (p.Leu365Pro) was identified by whole-exome sequencing in a candidate genomic region (16p11.2). Subsequently, the same variant was confirmed by conventional sequencing in all 16 affected family members. The variant was predicted to be damaging by in silico methods and was not found in available online databases or in the 125 selected healthy individuals. Seven additional ARMC5 variants were subsequently identified in 5 of 21 patients with apparently sporadic PMAH and in 2 of 3 families with the disease. Further molecular analysis identified a somatic mutational event in 4 patients whose adrenal tissue was available.
Conclusions: Inherited autosomal dominant mutations in the ARMC5 gene are a frequent cause of PMAH. Biallelic inactivation of ARMC5 is consistent with its role as a potential tumor suppressor gene.