Disorders of Adrenal Development
Human adrenal development is a complex and relatively poorly understood process. However, significant insight into some of the mechanisms regulating adrenal development and function is being obtained through the analysis of individuals and families with adrenal hypoplasia. Adrenal hypoplasia can occur: (1) secondary to defects in pituitary adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) synthesis, processing and release (secondary adrenal hypoplasia; e.g. HESX1, LHX4, SOX3, TPIT, pituitary POMC, PC1); (2) as part of several ACTH resistance syndromes (e.g. MC2R/ACTHR, MRAP, Alacrima, Achalasia, Addison disease), or as (3) a primary defect in the development of the adrenal gland itself (primary adrenal hypoplasia; e.g. DAX1/NR0B1 - dosage-sensitive sex reversal, adrenal hypoplasia congenita critical region on the X chromosome 1). Indeed, the X-linked form of primary adrenal hypoplasia due to deletions or mutations in the orphan nuclear receptor DAX1 occurs in around half of male infants presenting with a salt-losing adrenal crisis, where no obvious steroidogenic defect (e.g. 21-hydroxylase deficiency), metabolic abnormality (e.g. neonatal adrenoleukodystrophy) or physical cause (e.g. adrenal haemorrhage) is found. Establishing the underlying basis of adrenal failure can have important implications for investigating associated features, the likely long-term approach to treatment, and for counselling families about the risk of other children being affected.
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