ER Woodward, C Eng, R McMahon, R Voutilainen, NA Affara, BA Ponder, ER Maher
Hum Mol Genet
Inherited predisposition to phaeochromocytoma (MIM No 171300) occurs in multiple endocrine neoplasia type 2 (MEN 2) (MIM No 171400), von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease (MIM No 199300), and neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) (MIM No 162200). In addition, familial phaeochromocytoma alone has also been reported and we and others have identified germline VHL mutations in five of six kindreds analysed previously. Germline mutations in the RET proto-oncogene, which encodes a receptor tyrosine kinase, and in the VHL tumour suppressor gene cause MEN 2 and VHL disease, respectively. To further investigate the genetics of phaeochromocytoma predisposition, we analysed three groups of patients with no evidence of VHL disease, MEN 2 or NF1: Group A, eight kindreds with familial phaeochromocytoma; Group B, two patients with isolated bilateral phaeochromocytoma; and Group C, six cases of multiple extra-adrenal phaeochromocytoma or adrenal phaeochromocytoma with a family history of neuroectodermal tumours. Germline missense VHL mutations were identified in three of eight kindreds with familial phaeochromocytoma. A germline VHL mutation was also characterised in one of the two patients with bilateral phaeochromocytoma. No VHL or RET mutations were detected in the final group of patients with multiple extra-adrenal phaeochromocytoma or adrenal phaeochromocytoma with a family history of neuroectodermal tumours. The absence of germline VHL and RET gene mutations in many of these families suggested that other phaeochromoeytoma susceptibility loci may exist. Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) has been recently identified as a natural ligand for RET. Thus, it seems plausible that GDNF is a good candidate gene to play a role in phaeochromocytoma susceptibility. We searched for germline mutations in GDNF in 16 cases of familial phaeochromocytoma (groups A, B and C) and looked for evidence of somatic change in GDNF in 28 sporadic phaeochromocytomas, 12 MEN 2 phaeochromocytomas and five VHL phaeochromocytomas. No GDNF mutations were identified in patients with familial phaeochromocytoma disease, but a c277C-->T (R93W) sequence variant was identified in one of 28 sporadic tumours. This candidate mutation was identified in the germline and tumour tissue but was not present in 104 control GDNF alleles. GDNF sequence variants including R93W have been suggested previously to represent low penetrance susceptibility mutations for Hirschsprung disease and the R93W was not identified in 376 control alleles studied by others. These findings suggest that although GDNF mutations do not appear to have a major role in the pathogenesis of familial or sporadic phaeochromocytomas, allelic variation at the GDNF locus may modify phaeochromocytoma susceptibility.