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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Aug;100(8):2857-64. doi: 10.1210/jc.2015-1268. Epub 2015 May 14.

Stress-induced Aldosterone Hyper-Secretion in a Substantial Subset of Patients With Essential Hypertension.

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Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes Center (A.M., I.I.A., C.M. T.P., A.G., L.P., S.F., D.R., G.P.P.), G. Gennimatas General Hospital, Athens 11527, Greece; Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes, First Department of Pediatrics (A.S., E.C., G.P.C.), University of Athens Medical School, Aghia Sophia Children's Hospital, Athens 11527, Greece; Department of Pathophysiology (G.K.), University of Athens Medical School, Laikon Hospital, Athens 11527, Greece; and Department of Cardiology (A.Z., A.K.), G. Gennimatas General Hospital, Athens 11527, Greece.



Aldosterone (ALD) secretion is regulated mainly by angiotensin II, K(+), and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists (MRAs) have effectively been used for the treatment of patients with hypertension who do not have primary aldosteronism (PA).


We tested whether chronic stress-related ACTH-mediated ALD hypersecretion and/or zona glomerulosa hypersensitivity could be implicated in the pathogenesis of essential hypertension (ESHT).


One hundred thirteen hypertensives without PA and 61 normotensive controls underwent an ultralow-dose (0.03-μg) ACTH stimulation and a treadmill test. Patients with ALD hyper-response according to the cutoffs obtained from controls received treatment with MRAs and underwent genomic DNA testing for the presence of the CYP11B1/CYP11B2 chimeric gene and KCNJ5 gene mutations. A control group of 22 patients with simple ESHT received treatment with MRAs.


Based on the cutoffs of ALD and aldosterone-to-renin ratio (ARR) post-ACTH stimulation obtained from controls, 30 patients (27%) exhibited an ALD but not cortisol (F) hyper-response (HYPER group). This group had no difference in basal ACTH/renin (REN) concentrations compared with controls and the 83 patients with hypertension (73%) without an ALD hyper-response to ACTH stimulation. Patients in the HYPER group demonstrated significantly higher ALD concentrations, ARR, and ALD/ACTH ratio (AAR) in the treadmill test. Treatment with MRAs alone produced normalization of blood pressure in these patients whereas patients with hypertension with neither PA nor ALD hyper-response to ACTH stimulation who served as a control group failed to lower blood pressure. Also, two novel germline heterozygous KCNJ5 mutations were detected in the HYPER group.


A number of patients with hypertension without PA show ACTH-dependent ALD hyper-secretion and benefit from treatment with MRAs. This could be related to chronic stress via ACTH hyper secretion and/or gene-mutations increasing the zona glomerulosa responsiveness to excitatory stimuli.

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