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Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Apr;23(2):181-92. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2008.10.014.

Genetics of congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

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  • 1Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism, School of Clinical & Experimental Medicine, Institute of Biomedical Research, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK.


Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is one of the most common inherited metabolic disorders. It comprises a group of autosomal recessive disorders caused by the deficiency of one of four steroidogenic enzymes involved in cortisol biosynthesis or in the electron donor enzyme P450 oxidoreductase (POR) that serves as electron donor to steroidogenic cytochrome P450 (CYP) type II enzymes. The biochemical and clinical phenotype depends on the specific enzymatic defect and the impairment of specific enzyme activity. Defects of steroid 21-hydroxylase (CYP21A2) and 11beta-hydroxylase (CYP11B1) only affect adrenal steroidogenesis, whereas 17alpha-hydroxylase (CYP17A1) and 3beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD3B2) deficiency also impact on gonadal steroid biosynthesis. Inactivating POR gene mutations are the cause of CAH manifesting with apparent combined CYP17A1-CYP21A2 deficiency. P450 oxidoreductase deficiency (ORD) has a complex phenotype including two unique features not observed in any other CAH variant: skeletal malformations and severe genital ambiguity in both sexes.

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