SDHC Promoter Methylation, a Novel Pathogenic Mechanism in Parasympathetic Paragangliomas

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2018 Jan 1;103(1):295-305. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-01702.


Context: Germline mutations in the succinate dehydrogenase A, B, C, and D genes (collectively, SDHx) predispose to the development of paragangliomas (PGLs) arising at the parasympathetic or sympathetic neuroendocrine systems. SDHx mutations cause absence of tumoral immunostaining for SDHB. However, negative SDHB immunostaining has also been found in a subset of PGLs that lack SDHx mutations.

Settings: Here, we report the comprehensive molecular characterization of one such a tumor of parasympathetic origin compared with healthy paraganglia and other PGLs with or without SDHx mutations.

Results: Integration of multiplatform data revealed somatic SDHC methylation and loss of the 1q23.3 region containing the SDHC gene. This correlated with decreased SDHC messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels. Furthermore, another genetic event found affected the VHL gene, which showed a decreased DNA copy number, associated with low VHL mRNA levels, and an absence of VHL protein detected by immunohistochemistry. In addition, the tumor displayed a pseudohypoxic phenotype consisting in overexpression of the hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α and miR-210, as well as downregulation of the iron-sulfur cluster assembly enzyme (ISCU) involved in SDHB maturation. This profile resembles that of SDHx- or VHL-mutated PGLs but not of PGLs with decreased VHL copy number, pointing to SDHC rather than VHL as the pathogenic driver.

Conclusions: Collectively, these findings demonstrate the potential importance of both the SDHC epigenomic event and the activation of the HIF-1α/miR-210/ISCU axis in the pathogenesis of SDHx wild-type/SDHB-negative PGLs. To our knowledge, this is the first case of a sporadic parasympathetic PGL that carries silencing of SDHC, fulfilling the two-hit Knudson's model for tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA Methylation*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation*
  • Paraganglioma / genetics*
  • Paraganglioma / metabolism
  • Paraganglioma / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Membrane Proteins
  • SDHC protein, human