Background: Alström syndrome (AS), a monogenic form of obesity, is caused by recessive mutations in the centrosome- and basal body-associated gene ALMS1. AS is characterized by retinal dystrophy, sensory hearing loss, cardiomyopathy, childhood obesity, and metabolic derangements.
Objective: We sought to characterize the endocrine and metabolic features of AS while accounting for obesity as a confounder by comparing patients with AS to body mass index (BMI)-matched controls.
Methods: We evaluated 38 patients with AS (age 2 to 38 years) who were matched with 76 controls (age 2 to 48 years) by age, sex, race, and BMI. Fasting biochemistries, mixed meal test (MMT), indirect calorimetry, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and MRI/magnetic resonance spectroscopy were performed.
Results: Frequent abnormalities in AS included 76% obesity, 37% type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), 29% hypothyroidism (one-third central, two-thirds primary), 3% central adrenal insufficiency, 57% adult hypogonadism (one-third central, two-thirds primary), and 25% female hyperandrogenism. Patients with AS and controls had similar BMI z scores, body fat, waist circumference, abdominal visceral fat, muscle fat, resting energy expenditure (adjusted for lean mass), free fatty acids, glucagon, prolactin, ACTH, and cortisol. Compared with controls, patients with AS were shorter and had lower IGF-1 concentrations (Ps ≤ 0.001). Patients with AS had significantly greater fasting and MMT insulin resistance indices, higher MMT glucose, insulin, and C-peptide values, higher HbA1c, and higher prevalence of T2DM (Ps < 0.001). Patients with AS had significantly higher triglycerides, lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and a 10-fold greater prevalence of metabolic syndrome (Ps < 0.001). Patients with AS demonstrated significantly greater liver triglyceride accumulation and higher transaminases (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Severe insulin resistance and T2DM are the hallmarks of AS. However, patients with AS may present with multiple other endocrinopathies affecting growth and development.