Presence of aberrant adrenocorticotropic hormone precursors in two cases of McCune-Albright syndrome

Endocr J. 2020 Mar 28;67(3):353-359. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.EJ19-0449. Epub 2019 Dec 4.


McCune-Albright syndrome (MAS) is a rare disorder. MAS is classically defined by the occurrence of fibrous dysplasia, café-au-lait skin macules, and precocious puberty. In addition to precocious puberty, other hyperfunctioning endocrinopathies may occur. We evaluated hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal function in two cases of typical MAS associated with fibrous dysplasia and growth hormone excess. Pituitary adenoma or hyperplasia was not detected by magnetic resonance imaging. Hormonal data showed normal or low cortisol levels, despite high ACTH levels in the blood. A high ratio of circulating ACTH to cortisol was found in the two cases. Insulin tolerance and CRH tests showed hyper-responses of ACTH and an insufficient increase in cortisol levels. No involvement of 11β-HSD1 by GH excess was suggested because basal levels of ACTH and cortisol showed no changes, even after therapy for acromegaly by somatostatin analogues. Patients with Cushing's disease cases of pituitary macroadenoma can have high circulating ACTH precursor levels, and elevated ACTH precursors have been observed in ectopic ACTH syndrome. Autonomous cortisol excess was excluded by the level of midnight cortisol and the level of cortisol after a low-dose dexamethasone suppression test in the two cases. Finally, the gel filtration profiles of immunoreactive ACTH contents showed the presence of aberrant ACTH precursors. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no reports of MAS associated with aberrant ACTH precursors. Our findings in these cases emphasize that attention should be to secretion of inactive ACTH precursors in MAS.

Keywords: ACTH precursor; Growth hormone; McCune–Albright syndrome; Pro-opiomelanocortin.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood*
  • Adult
  • Fibrous Dysplasia, Polyostotic / blood*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology
  • Male
  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin / blood*


  • Pro-Opiomelanocortin
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Hydrocortisone