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Endocr Relat Cancer. 2013 Aug 28;20(5):705-16. doi: 10.1530/ERC-13-0232. Print 2013 Oct.

Metabolomic profile of the adrenal gland: from physiology to pathological conditions.

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  • 1Department of Biophysics and Nuclear Medicine, Strasbourg University Hospitals, Hôpital de Hautepierre, France. alessio.imperiale@chru-strasbourg.fr


In this study, we i) assessed the metabolic profile of the normal adrenal cortex and medulla of adult human subjects by means of (1)H-high-resolution magic-angle spinning nuclear magnetic resonance (HRMAS NMR) spectroscopy; ii) compared the biochemical profile of adenoma (Ad), adrenal cortical carcinoma (ACC), and pheochromocytoma (PCC) samples with that of healthy adrenal tissue samples; and iii) investigated the metabolic differences between ACCs and Ads as well as between ACCs and PCCs. Sixty-six tissue samples (13 adrenal cortical tissue, eight medullary tissue, 13 Ad, 12 ACC, and 20 PCC samples) were analyzed. Adrenaline and noradrenaline were undetectable in cortical samples representing the metabolic signature of the tissue derived from neural crest. Similarity between the metabolic profile of Ads and that of the normal adrenal cortex was shown. Inversely, ACC samples clearly made up a detached group exhibiting the typical stigmata of neoplastic tissue such as choline-containing compounds, biochemical markers of anaerobic processes, and increased glycolysis. Significantly higher levels of lactate, acetate, and total choline-containing compounds played a major role in the differentiation of ACCs from Ads. Moreover, the high fatty acid content of ACCs contributed to the cluster identification of ACCs. Of the 14 sporadic PCC samples, 12 exhibited predominant or exclusive noradrenaline secretion. The noradrenaline:adrenaline ratio was inverted in the normal medullary tissue samples. Multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2- and NF1-related PCC samples exhibited both adrenaline and noradrenaline secretion. In the von Hippel-Lindau disease-related PCC samples, only noradrenaline secretion was detected by HRMAS NMR spectroscopy. This study is one of the first applications of metabolomics to adrenal pathophysiology and it is the largest study to report HRMAS NMR data related to the adrenal cortex and adrenal cortical tumors.


HRMAS; adrenal adenoma; adrenal cortical carcinoma; metabolomics; pheochromocytoma

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