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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2002 Sep;87(9):4318-23.

Clinical, genetic, and functional characterization of adrenocorticotropin receptor mutations using a novel receptor assay.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics and Metabolic Research Unit, University of California, San Francisco, California 94143-0978, USA.


The ACTH receptor (MC2R) is expressed predominantly in the adrenal cortex, but is one of five G protein-coupled, seven-transmembrane melanocortin receptors (MCRs), all of which bind ACTH to some degree. Testing of MC2R activity is difficult because most cells express endogenous MCRs; hence, ACTH will elicit background activation of assayable reporter systems. Inactivating mutations of MC2R lead to hereditary unresponsiveness to ACTH, also known as familial glucocorticoid deficiency (FGD). These patients are usually seen in early childhood with very low cortisol concentrations, normal mineralocorticoids, hyperpigmentation, and increased bodily growth. Several MC2R mutations have been reported in FGD, but assays of the activities of these mutants are cumbersome. We saw two patients with typical clinical findings of FGD. Genetic analysis showed that patient 1 was homozygous for the mutation R137W, and patient 2 was a compound heterozygote for S74I and Y254C. We tested the activity of these mutations in OS-3 cells, which are unresponsive to ACTH but have intact downstream cAMP signal transduction. OS-3 cells transfected with a cAMP-responsive luciferase reporter plasmid (pCREluc) were unresponsive to ACTH, but cotransfection with a vector expressing human MC2R increased luciferase activity more than 40-fold. Addition of ACTH to cells cotransfected with the pCREluc reporter and wild-type MC2R activated luciferase expression with a 50% effective concentration of 5.5 x 10(-9) M ACTH, which is similar to previously reported values. By contrast, the MC2R mutant R137W had low activity, and the S74I or Y254C mutants elicited no measurable response. This assay provides excellent sensitivity in an easily assayed transient transfection system, providing a more rapid and efficient measurement of ACTH receptor activity.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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