Horm Metab Res 2017; 49(12): 963-968
DOI: 10.1055/s-0043-120066
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Unanswered Questions in the Genetic Basis of Primary Aldosteronism

Ute I. Scholl
1  Department of Nephrology, Medical School, Heinrich Heine University, University Hospital Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany
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Further Information

Publication History

received 04 September 2017

accepted 14 September 2017

Publication Date:
24 October 2017 (online)


Over the past six years, the genetic basis of a significant fraction of primary aldosteronism (PA) cases has been solved. Breakthrough discoveries include the role of somatic variants in the KCNJ5, CACNA1D, ATP1A1, and ATP2B3 genes as causes of aldosterone-producing adenomas (APAs), and the recognition of three novel hyperaldosteronism syndromes with germline variants in the KCNJ5, CACNA1D, and CACNA1H genes. The description of somatic variants in CACNA1D and ATP1A1 in aldosterone-producing cell clusters (APCCs) suggests that these clusters are precursors of some aldosterone-producing adenomas. Yet, a number of questions remain unanswered. These include the genetic basis of about 40% of APAs without somatic variants in known genes. Do technical issues explain this finding, or are the unexplained APAs due to somatic copy number variation or rare variants in thus-far undiscovered genes? Similarly, the role of CTNNB1 (beta catenin) variants in APA pathogenesis is still unclear. The major question to be solved is the genetic basis of bilateral adrenal hyperplasia (BAH). Is BAH due to the bilateral occurrence of APCCs, to germline variants, or perhaps due to unknown serum factors? Lastly, the etiology of unsolved cases of apparently familial hyperaldosteronism remains to be discovered. It is expected that genetic studies over the next few years will lead to answers to at least some of the questions raised.