Aldosterone, which plays a key role in the regulation of blood pressure, is produced by zona glomerulosa (ZG) cells of the adrenal cortex. Exaggerated overproduction of aldosterone from ZG cells causes primary hyperaldosteronism. In ZG cells, calcium entry through voltage-gated calcium channels plays a central role in the regulation of aldosterone secretion. Previous studies in animal adrenals and human adrenal adrenocortical cell lines suggest that the T-type but not the L-type calcium channel activity drives aldosterone production. However, recent clinical studies show that somatic mutations in L-type calcium channels are the second most prevalent cause of aldosterone-producing adenoma. Our objective was to define the roles of T and L-type calcium channels in regulating aldosterone secretion from human adrenals. We find that human adrenal ZG cells mainly express T-type CaV3.2/3.3 and L-type CaV1.2/1.3 calcium channels. TTA-P2, a specific inhibitor of T-type calcium channel subtypes, reduced basal aldosterone secretion from acutely prepared slices of human adrenals. Surprisingly, nifedipine, the prototypic inhibitor of L-type calcium channels, also decreased basal aldosterone secretion, suggesting that L-type calcium channels are active under basal conditions. In addition, TTA-P2 or nifedipine also inhibited aldosterone secretion stimulated by angiotensin II- or elevations in extracellular K+. Remarkably, blockade of either L- or T-type calcium channels inhibits basal and stimulated aldosterone production to a similar extent. Low concentrations of TTA-P2 and nifedipine showed additive inhibitory effect on aldosterone secretion. We conclude that T- and L-type calcium channels play equally important roles in controlling aldosterone production from human adrenals.
Tingting Yang, Min He, Hailiang Zhang, Paula Q Barrett, and Changlong Hu
Dawn E W Livingstone, Emma M Di Rollo, Chenjing Yang, Lucy E Codrington, John A Mathews, Madina Kara, Katherine A Hughes, Christopher J Kenyon, Brian R Walker, and Ruth Andrew
Patients with critical illness or hepatic failure exhibit impaired cortisol responses to ACTH, a phenomenon known as ‘relative adrenal insufficiency’. A putative mechanism is that elevated bile acids inhibit inactivation of cortisol in liver by 5α-reductases type 1 and type 2 and 5β-reductase, resulting in compensatory downregulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and adrenocortical atrophy. To test the hypothesis that impaired glucocorticoid clearance can cause relative adrenal insufficiency, we investigated the consequences of 5α-reductase type 1 deficiency in mice. In adrenalectomised male mice with targeted disruption of 5α-reductase type 1, clearance of corticosterone was lower after acute or chronic (eightfold, P<0.05) administration, compared with WT control mice. In intact 5α-reductase-deficient male mice, although resting plasma corticosterone levels were maintained, corticosterone responses were impaired after ACTH administration (26% lower, P<0.05), handling stress (2.5-fold lower, P<0.05) and restraint stress (43% lower, P<0.05) compared with WT mice. mRNA levels of Nr3c1 (glucocorticoid receptor), Crh and Avp in pituitary or hypothalamus were altered, consistent with enhanced negative feedback. These findings confirm that impaired peripheral clearance of glucocorticoids can cause ‘relative adrenal insufficiency’ in mice, an observation with important implications for patients with critical illness or hepatic failure, and for patients receiving 5α-reductase inhibitors for prostatic disease.
Ping Ye, Christopher J Kenyon, Scott M MacKenzie, Katherine Nichol, Jonathan R Seckl, Robert Fraser, John M C Connell, and Eleanor Davies
Using a highly sensitive quantitative RT-PCR method for the measurement of CYP11B1 (11β-hydroxylase) and CYP11B2 (aldosterone synthase) mRNAs, we previously demonstrated that CYP11B2 expression in the central nervous system (CNS) is subject to regulation by dietary sodium. We have now quantified the expression of these genes in the CNS of male Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats in response to systemic ACTH infusion, dexamethasone infusion, and to adrenalectomy. CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 mRNA levels were measured in total RNA isolated from the adrenal gland and discrete brain regions using real-time quantitative RT-PCR. ACTH infusion (40 ng/day for 7 days, N=8) significantly increased CYP11B1 mRNA in the adrenal gland, hypothalamus, and cerebral cortex compared with animals infused with vehicle only. ACTH infusion decreased adrenal CYP11B2 expression but increased expression in all of the CNS regions except the cortex. Dexamethasone (10 μg/day for 7 days, N=8) reduced adrenal CYP11B1 mRNA compared with control animals but had no significant effect on either gene's expression in the CNS. Adrenalectomy (N=6 per group) significantly increased CYP11B1 expression in the hippocampus and hypothalamus and raised CYP11B2 expression in the cerebellum relative to sham-operated animals. This study confirms the transcription of CYP11B1 and CYP11B2 throughout the CNS and demonstrates that gene transcription is subject to differential regulation by ACTH and circulating corticosteroid levels.
Lianne Abrahams, Nina M Semjonous, Phil Guest, Agnieszka Zielinska, Beverly Hughes, Gareth G Lavery, and Paul M Stewart
Glucocorticoid concentrations are a balance between production under the negative feedback control and diurnal rhythm of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and peripheral metabolism, for example by the enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1), which catalyses the reduction of inactive cortisone (11-dehydrocorticosterone (11-DHC) in mice) to cortisol (corticosterone in mice). Reductase activity is conferred upon 11β-HSD1 by hexose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (H6PDH). 11β-HSD1 is implicated in the development of obesity, and selective 11β-HSD1 inhibitors are currently under development. We sought to address the concern regarding potential up-regulation of the HPA axis associated with inhibition of 11β-HSD1. We assessed biomarkers for allele combinations of 11β-HSD1 and H6PDH derived from double heterozygous mouse crosses. H6PDH knock out (KO) adrenals were 69% larger than WT while 11β-HSD1 KO and double KO (DKO) adrenals were ∼30% larger than WT – indicative of increased HPA axis drive in KO animals. ACTH-stimulated circulating corticosterone concentrations were 2.2-fold higher in H6PDH KO animals and ∼1.5-fold higher in 11β-HSD1 KO and DKO animals compared with WT, proportional to the observed adrenal hypertrophy. KO of H6PDH resulted in a substantial increase in urinary DHC metabolites in males (65%) and females (61%). KO of 11β-HSD1 alone or in combination with H6PDH led to significant increases (36 and 42% respectively) in urinary DHC metabolites in females only. Intermediate 11β-HSD1/H6PDH heterozygotes maintained a normal HPA axis. Urinary steroid metabolite profile by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry as a biomarker assay may be beneficial in assaying HPA axis status clinically in cases of congenital and acquired 11β-HSD1/H6PDH deficiency.
Ryun S Ahn, Jee H Choi, Bum C Choi, Jung H Kim, Sung H Lee, and Simon S Sung
Cortisol concentration in both serum and saliva sharply increases and reaches a peak within the first hour after waking in the morning. This phenomenon is known as the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and is used as an index of hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis function. We examined whether ovarian steroid concentrations increased after awakening as with the CAR in the HPA axis. To do this, cortisol, estradiol-17β (E2), and progesterone (P4) concentrations were determined in saliva samples collected immediately upon awakening and 30 and 60 min after awakening in women with regular menstrual cycles and postmenopausal women. We found that both E2 and P4 concentrations increased during the post-awakening period in women with regular menstrual cycles, but these phenomena were not seen in any postmenopausal women. The area under the E2 and P4 curve from the time interval immediately after awakening to 60 min after awakening (i.e. E2auc and P4auc) in women with regular menstrual cycles were greater than those in the postmenopausal women. E2 and P4 secretory activity during the post-awakening period was influenced by the phase of the menstrual cycle. E2auc in the peri-ovulatory phase and P4auc in the early to mid-luteal phase were greater than in the menstrual phase. Meanwhile, cortisol secretory activity during the post-awakening period was not influenced by menstrual status or the phase of menstrual cycle. These findings indicate that, as with the CAR in the HPA axis function, ovarian steroidogenic activity increased after awakening and is closely associated with menstrual status and phase of menstrual cycle.
Sushil K Mahata, Hong Zheng, Sumana Mahata, Xuefei Liu, and Kaushik P Patel
One of the key mechanisms involved in sympathoexcitation in chronic heart failure (HF) is the activation of the adrenal glands. Impact of the elevated catecholamines on the hemodynamic parameters has been previously demonstrated. However, studies linking the structural effects of such overactivation with secretory performance and cell metabolism in the adrenomedullary chromaffin cells in vivo have not been previously reported. In this study, HF was induced in male Sprague-Dawley rats by ligation of the left coronary artery. Five weeks after surgery, cardiac function was assessed by ventricular hemodynamics. HF rats showed increased adrenal weight and adrenal catecholamine levels (norepinephrine, epinephrine and dopamine) compared with sham-operated rats. Rats with HF demonstrated increased small synaptic and dense core vesicle in splanchnic–adrenal synapses indicating trans-synaptic activation of catecholamine biosynthetic enzymes, increased endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi lumen width to meet the demand of increased catecholamine synthesis and release, and more mitochondria with dilated cristae and glycogen to accommodate for the increased energy demand for the increased biogenesis and exocytosis of catecholamines from the adrenal medulla. These findings suggest that increased trans-synaptic activation of the chromaffin cells within the adrenal medulla may lead to increased catecholamines in the circulation which in turn contributes to the enhanced neurohumoral drive, providing a unique mechanistic insight for enhanced catecholamine levels in plasma commonly observed in chronic HF condition.
R Prasad, J C Kowalczyk, E Meimaridou, H L Storr, and L A Metherell
Maintenance of redox balance is essential for normal cellular functions. Any perturbation in this balance due to increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) leads to oxidative stress and may lead to cell dysfunction/damage/death. Mitochondria are responsible for the majority of cellular ROS production secondary to electron leakage as a consequence of respiration. Furthermore, electron leakage by the cytochrome P450 enzymes may render steroidogenic tissues acutely vulnerable to redox imbalance. The adrenal cortex, in particular, is well supplied with both enzymatic (glutathione peroxidases and peroxiredoxins) and non-enzymatic (vitamins A, C and E) antioxidants to cope with this increased production of ROS due to steroidogenesis. Nonetheless oxidative stress is implicated in several potentially lethal adrenal disorders including X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy, triple A syndrome and most recently familial glucocorticoid deficiency. The finding of mutations in antioxidant defence genes in the latter two conditions highlights how disturbances in redox homeostasis may have an effect on adrenal steroidogenesis.
E Meimaridou, M Goldsworthy, V Chortis, E Fragouli, P A Foster, W Arlt, R Cox, and L A Metherell
Nicotinamide nucleotide transhydrogenase, NNT, is a ubiquitous protein of the inner mitochondrial membrane with a key role in mitochondrial redox balance. NNT produces high concentrations of NADPH for detoxification of reactive oxygen species by glutathione and thioredoxin pathways. In humans, NNT dysfunction leads to an adrenal-specific disorder, glucocorticoid deficiency. Certain substrains of C57BL/6 mice contain a spontaneously occurring inactivating Nnt mutation and display glucocorticoid deficiency along with glucose intolerance and reduced insulin secretion. To understand the underlying mechanism(s) behind the glucocorticoid deficiency, we performed comprehensive RNA-seq on adrenals from wild-type (C57BL/6N), mutant (C57BL/6J) and BAC transgenic mice overexpressing Nnt (C57BL/6JBAC). The following results were obtained. Our data suggest that Nnt deletion (or overexpression) reduces adrenal steroidogenic output by decreasing the expression of crucial, mitochondrial antioxidant (Prdx3 and Txnrd2) and steroidogenic (Cyp11a1) enzymes. Pathway analysis also revealed upregulation of heat shock protein machinery and haemoglobins possibly in response to the oxidative stress initiated by NNT ablation. In conclusion, using transcriptomic profiling in adrenals from three mouse models, we showed that disturbances in adrenal redox homeostasis are mediated not only by under expression of NNT but also by its overexpression. Further, we demonstrated that both under expression or overexpression of NNT reduced corticosterone output implying a central role for it in the control of steroidogenesis. This is likely due to a reduction in the expression of a key steroidogenic enzyme, Cyp11a1, which mirrored the reduction in corticosterone output.
Peter Kolkhof and Lars Bärfacker
The cDNA of the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) was cloned 30 years ago, in 1987. At that time, spirolactone, the first generation of synthetic steroid-based MR antagonists (MRAs), which was identified in preclinical in vivo models, had already been in clinical use for 30 years. Subsequent decades of research and development by Searle & Co., Ciba-Geigy, Roussel Uclaf and Schering AG toward identifying a second generation of much more specific steroidal MRAs were all based on the initial 17-spirolactone construct. The salient example is eplerenone, first described in 1987, coincidentally with the cloning of MR cDNA. Its launch on the market in 2003 paralleled intensive drug discovery programs for a new generation of non-steroidal MRAs. Now, 30 years after the cDNA cloning of MR and 60 years of clinical use of steroidal MRAs, novel non-steroidal MRAs such as apararenone, esaxerenone and finerenone are in late-stage clinical trials in patients with heart failure, chronic kidney disease (CKD), hypertension and liver disease. Finerenone has already been studied in over 2000 patients with heart failure plus chronic kidney disease and/or diabetes, and in patients with diabetic kidney disease, in five phase II clinical trials. Here, we reflect on the history of the various generations of MRAs and review characteristics of the most important steroidal and non-steroidal MRAs.
Amanda E Garza, Elijah Trefts, Isis A Katayama Rangel, Danielle Brooks, Rene Baudrand, Burhanuddin Moize, Jose R Romero, Sanjay Ranjit, Thitinan Treesaranuwattana, Tham M Yao, Gail K Adler, Luminita H Pojoga, and Gordon H Williams
Aldosterone modulates the activity of both epithelial (specifically renal) and non-epithelial cells. Binding to the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR), activates two pathways: the classical genomic and the rapidly activated non-genomic that is substantially modulated by the level of striatin. We hypothesized that disruption of MR’s non-genomic pathway would alter aldosterone-induced cardiovascular/renal damage. To test this hypothesis, wild type (WT) and striatin heterozygous knockout (Strn+/ −) littermate male mice were fed a liberal sodium (1.6% Na+) diet and randomized to either protocol one: 3 weeks of treatment with either vehicle or aldosterone plus/minus MR antagonists, eplerenone or esaxerenone or protocol two: 2 weeks of treatment with either vehicle or L-NAME/AngII plus/minus MR antagonists, spironolactone or esaxerenone. Compared to the WT mice, basally, the Strn+/ − mice had greater (~26%) estimated renal glomeruli volume and reduced non-genomic second messenger signaling (pAkt/Akt ratio) in kidney tissue. In response to active treatment, the striatin-associated-cardiovascular/renal damage was limited to volume effects induced by aldosterone infusion: significantly increased blood pressure (BP) and albuminuria. In contrast, with aldosterone or L-NAME/AngII treatment, striatin deficiency did not modify aldosterone-mediated damage: in the heart and kidney, macrophage infiltration, and increases in aldosterone-induced biomarkers of injury. All changes were near-normalized following MR blockade with spironolactone or esaxerenone, except increased BP in the L-NAME/AngII model. In conclusion, the loss of striatin amplified aldosterone-induced damage suggesting that aldosterone’s non-genomic pathway is protective but only related to effects likely mediated via epithelial, but not non-epithelial cells.