Model systems in SDHx-related pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2021 Dec;40(4):1177-1201. doi: 10.1007/s10555-021-10009-z. Epub 2021 Dec 27.


Pheochromocytoma (PHEO) and paraganglioma (PGL) (together PPGL) are tumors with poor outcomes that arise from neuroendocrine cells in the adrenal gland, and sympathetic and parasympathetic ganglia outside the adrenal gland, respectively. Many follow germline mutations in genes coding for subunits of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), a tetrameric enzyme in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle that both converts succinate to fumarate and participates in electron transport. Germline SDH subunit B (SDHB) mutations have a high metastatic potential. Herein, we review the spectrum of model organisms that have contributed hugely to our understanding of SDH dysfunction. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae (yeast), succinate accumulation inhibits alpha-ketoglutarate-dependent dioxygenase enzymes leading to DNA demethylation. In the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, mutated SDH creates developmental abnormalities, metabolic rewiring, an energy deficit and oxygen hypersensitivity (the latter is also found in Drosophila melanogaster). In the zebrafish Danio rerio, sdhb mutants display a shorter lifespan with defective energy metabolism. Recently, SDHB-deficient pheochromocytoma has been cultivated in xenografts and has generated cell lines, which can be traced back to a heterozygous SDHB-deficient rat. We propose that a combination of such models can be efficiently and effectively used in both pathophysiological studies and drug-screening projects in order to find novel strategies in PPGL treatment.

Keywords: Model organisms; Paraganglioma; Pheochromocytoma; SDH; Succinate dehydrogenase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Adrenal Gland Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Animals
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Germ-Line Mutation
  • Humans
  • Paraganglioma* / genetics
  • Paraganglioma* / pathology
  • Pheochromocytoma* / genetics
  • Pheochromocytoma* / pathology
  • Rats
  • Succinates
  • Zebrafish


  • Succinates