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Hum Mol Genet. 2010 Apr 15;19(8):1561-76. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddq029. Epub 2010 Jan 27.

Constitutive beta-catenin activation induces adrenal hyperplasia and promotes adrenal cancer development.

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Clermont Université, Université Blaise Pascal, GReD, BP 10448, F-63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France.


Adrenocortical carcinoma is a rare but aggressive cancer with unknown aetiology. Constitutive activation of beta-catenin is the most frequent alteration in benign and malignant adrenocortical tumours in patients. Here, we show that constitutive activation of beta-catenin in the adrenal cortex of transgenic mice resulted in progressive steroidogenic and undifferentiated spindle-shaped cells hyperplasia as well as dysplasia of the cortex and medulla. Over a 17 months time course, transgenic adrenals developed malignant characteristics such as uncontrolled neovascularization and loco-regional metastatic invasion. These oncogenic events were accompanied by ectopic differentiation of glomerulosa at the expense of fasciculata cells, which caused primary hyperaldosteronism. Altogether these observations demonstrate that constitutively active beta-catenin is an adrenal oncogene which triggers benign aldosterone-secreting tumour development and promotes malignancy.

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