A putative role for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) gene in a patient with cyclical Cushing’s disease

Published on 2020-01-30T04:56:55Z (GMT) by
Abstract Background Apart from PRKAR1A mutations in a subset of cyclical Cushing’s syndrome due to primary pigmented nodular adrenocortical disease, the molecular basis of cyclical Cushing’s syndrome has not been investigated. We speculated that cyclical Cushing’s syndrome may be due to mutations in the clock genes that govern circadian rhythms, including the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Case presentation A 47-year-old man presented with mass effects from a sellar lesion. He was ultimately diagnosed with cyclical Cushing’s disease due to a giant corticotrophinoma. We performed whole exome sequencing of germline and tumour DNA, SNP array of tumour DNA and tumour immunohistochemistry in order to detect variants in candidate circadian/pituitary-associated genes. We identified a rare germline missense variant in the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) gene, which has previously been indirectly linked to pituitary tumorigenesis and clock system disruption. The AHR variant was found in a highly conserved site involved in phosphorylation. It was predicted to be damaging by multiple in silico tools and AHR tumour immunohistochemistry demonstrated loss of the normal nuclear staining pattern, suggestive of an inactivating mutation. We also found a novel, damaging germline missense variant in the retinoid X receptor gamma (RXRG) gene, multiple somatic chromosomal gains (including AHR), and a somatic mutational signature consistent with oncogenesis that may have acted synergistically with the AHR variant. Conclusions This is the first report of an AHR variant with predicted pathogenicity in the pituitary adenoma setting. Our preliminary data suggest that the highly conserved AHR gene may represent a link between pituitary tumorigenesis, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the clock system. Further research may indicate a role for the gene in the development of cyclical Cushing’s disease.

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De Sousa, Sunita; Manavis, Jim; Feng, Jinghua; Wang, Paul; Schreiber, Andreas; Scott, Hamish; et al. (2020): A putative role for the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) gene in a patient with cyclical Cushing’s disease. figshare. Collection. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.4836108.v1