Author(s): Arola J, Liu J, Heikkil P, Ilvesmki V, Salmenkivi K,
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Abstract Inhibins are gonadal glycoprotein hormones whose main endocrine function is to inhibit pituitary FSH secretion. In addition to testes and ovaries, other steroid-producing organs are sites of inhibin alpha subunit expression. To study the role of inhibins in human adrenal gland, we screened a panel of 150 adrenals (10 normal adrenals, 25 adrenocortical hyperplasias, 65 adrenocortical adenomas, 30 adrenocortical carcinomas and 20 phaeochromocytomas) for inhibin alpha expression. mRNA levels of inhibin alpha subunit were studied in 57 samples and all tissues were stained immunohistochemically with an inhibin alpha subunit-specific antibody. Inhibin alpha mRNA was detected in all adrenocortical tissues. Virilizing adenomas possessed a 10-fold higher median inhibin alpha mRNA expression than did normal adrenals. Bilaterally and nodularly hyperplastic adrenals and other than virilizing adrenocortical tumours had their median inhibin alpha mRNA levels close to those of normal adrenals. Immunohistochemically, inhibin alpha subunit was detectable in all normal and hyperplastic adrenals, as well as in 73\% of the adrenocortical tumours. However, the percentage of inhibin alpha-positive cells varied greatly in different tumour types. The median percentage of positive cells was 10 in non-functional and Conn's adenomas, 30 in Cushing's adenomas and 75 in virilizing adenomas. In malignant adrenocortical tumours the median percentage of inhibin alpha-immunopositive cells was 20 in non-functional carcinomas, 30 in Conn's carcinomas, 65 in Cushing's carcinomas and 75 in virilizing carcinomas. All phaeochromocytomas were negative for inhibin alpha subunit both at the mRNA level and immunohistochemically. Our data show that inhibin alpha subunit is highly expressed in both normal and neoplastic androgen-producing adrenocortical cells, with less expression in cortisol-producing and hardly any in aldosterone-producing cells. This suggests a specific role for inhibins in the regulation of adrenal androgen production. We did not find any significant difference in inhibin alpha expression between benign and malignant adrenocortical tumours. Thus inhibin alpha gene does not seem to have a tumour suppressor role in human adrenal cortex.
This article was published in J Endocrinol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical Case Reports