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Cortisol secretion in ACTH independent bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (AIMAH) can be regulated by aberrant adrenal receptors. We describe a patient with Cushing's syndrome (CS) due to AIMAH and concomitant Class IV congestive heart failure (CHF). Clinical testing for the presence of aberrant receptors revealed a pronounced serum cortisol (257%) and aldosterone response (212%) to the administration of ACTH and a partial serum cortisol (35%) and aldosterone (106%) response to upright posture. This suggested the possible presence of aberrant hormone receptors for ACTH [melanocortin 2 receptor (MC2-R)], vasopressin, catecholamines or angiotensin II (AT-II) on the patient's adrenal glands. Adrenal tissue from the patient demonstrated an eight-fold increased expression of MC2-R compared to normal adrenal tissue. This increased expression was consistent with the increase in cortisol and aldosterone seen in response to exogenous ACTH. We propose that the severe CHF resulted in activation of the renin-angiotensin system, with an increased production of AT-II. The elevated circulating levels of AT-II may have led to increased expression of MC2-R on the patient's adrenal glands and increased responsiveness to ACTH. This unusual case of CS may elucidate a heretofore unknown mechanism for the development of AIMAH.


D Suri, M Alonso, R E Weiss. A case of ACTH-independent bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia and severe congestive heart failure. Journal of endocrinological investigation. 2006 Nov;29(10):940-6

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PMID: 17185906

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