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Horm Res. 1988;29(4):162-7.

Cushing's syndrome due to bilateral adrenal macronodular hyperplasia with undetectable ACTH: cell culture of adenoma cells on extracellular matrix.

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Laboratory of Molecular Endocrinology, University of California, San Francisco.


A 59-year-old man developed Cushing's syndrome with massive bilateral adrenal macronodular hyperplasia. Plasma ACTH levels were undetectable both peripherally and in the inferior petrosal sinus. Computed tomography scans of his pituitary were normal. Hypercortisolism was not suppressed by high doses of dexamethasone. His adrenal cells were successfully isolated and grown on bovine corneal extracellular matrix. The cultured cells displayed strikingly rapid growth and hypersecretion of cortisol during incubation with control serum. Addition of the patient's serum to cultured fetal adrenal cells did not accelerate their growth. This was the first experience with our in vitro system in this rare clinical condition. The techniques described here may be used for future in vitro adrenal studies. These in vivo and in vitro data indicate that this patient's bilateral adrenal hyperfunction and growth were independent of ACTH.

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