Generalized glucocorticoid resistance caused by a novel two nucleotide deletion in the hormone binding domain of the glucocorticoid receptor gene NR3C1.
OBJECTIVE: Generalized glucocorticoid resistance is characterized by impaired cortisol signalling, resulting from mutations of the glucocorticoid receptor gene NR3C1. The objective of our study was to identify the causative mutation in a patient with clinical manifestations compatible with generalized glucocorticoid resistance and to determine the functional consequences of the mutation. The possible occurrence of NR3C1 mutations in a selected group of hypertensive subjects with low plasma renin and aldosterone levels was also explored. PATIENTS: The proband, a male athlete, was diagnosed with hypertension associated with low plasma renin activity and low serum aldosterone concentration at the age of 27. Liddle´s syndrome was suspected and the patient was treated with amiloride with initial success. Subsequent examinations revealed elevated serum cortisol and ACTH levels, with resistance to suppression with low doses of dexamethasone. After identification of an NR3C1 mutation in the proband, the available family members and 51 nonrelated hypertensive subjects with low plasma renin and aldosterone concentrations were also studied. RESULTS: A two nucleotide deletion in exon 9α, predicted to cause a frameshift mutation (p.L773VfsX25) in the hormone-binding domain of the glucocorticoid receptor, was identified in the patient in a heterozygous form. Affected brother and father died of premature coronary heart disease. Functional studies in COS-1 cells showed that this mutation eliminates both ligand binding and transactivation ability of the receptor. No pathogenic NR3C1 mutations were identified in 51 unrelated hypertensive patients with low plasma renin and aldosterone levels. CONCLUSION: We identified a novel frameshift mutation in NR3C1 as the cause of glucocorticoid resistance. The mutation eliminates the functional activity of the glucocorticoid receptor, as studied by in vitro experiments. Mutations in NR3C1 do not seem to be common causes for hypertension with low renin and aldosterone levels.