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Endocr Relat Cancer. 2012 May 3;19(3):261-9. doi: 10.1530/ERC-11-0263. Print 2012 Jun.

Mitochondrial function and content in pheochromocytoma/paraganglioma of succinate dehydrogenase mutation carriers.

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Endocrinology Unit, Department of Clinical Pathophysiology, University of Florence, Viale Pieraccini 6, 50139 Florence, Italy.


To date, the consequences of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) impairment on overall mitochondrial functions are still obscure. In this study, we evaluated SDH activity and expression and mitochondrial homeostasis in 57 tissue samples of pheochromocytoma (PHEO)/paraganglioma (PGL) obtained from patients genotyped for PHEO/PGL susceptibility genes. The resulted SDH activity and content always decreased in SDH-mutated tumors, in one out of two MAX-mutated patients and in four patients resulted wild type (wt) at genetic screening. All these four wt patients were further screened for large deletions in SDH genes, TMEM127 and MAX and resulted wt but two had somatic SDHD mutations. The RT-PCR in the MAX-mutated sample suggests that the decrease in SDH depends on complex instability and not on a reduced SDHB expression. SDH mutations neither alter citrate synthase (CS) activity nor the content of voltage-dependent anion channel (VDAC) while the expression of the mitochondrial complex IV (cytochrome c oxidase (COX)) was found extremely variable in all (mutated and wt) samples suggesting an impairment of mitochondrial cristae in these tumors. In conclusion, tumors from patients with germ line SDH mutations invariably show decreased enzymatic activity and content, but an SDH impairment may also depend on SDH somatic mutations or, seemingly, on MAX mutations. The impaired SDH activity in the two wt tissues suggests mutations in other still unknown susceptibility genes. Finally, the extreme variability in COX expression levels is yet to be explained and this strongly suggests to evaluate other mitochondrial features to better understand the mitochondrial role in the pathogenesis of these tumors.

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