G protein mutations in endocrine diseases

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This review summarizes the pathogenetic role of naturally occurring mutations of G protein genes in endocrine diseases. Although in vitro mutagenesis and transfection assays indicate that several G proteins have mitogenic potential, to date only two G proteins have been identified which harbor naturally occurring mutations, Gsα, the activator of adenylyl cyclase and Gi2α, which is involved in several functions, including adenylyl cyclase inhibition and ion channel modulation. The gene encoding Gsα (GNAS1) may be altered by loss or gain of function mutations. Indeed, heterozygous inactivating germ line mutations in this gene cause pseudohypoparathyroidism type Ia, in which physical features of Albright hereditary osteodystrophy (AHO) are associated with resistance to several hormones, i.e. PTH, TSH and gonadotropins, that activate Gs-coupled receptors or pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism in which AHO is the only clinical manifestation. Evidence suggests that the variable and tissue-specific hormone resistance observed in PHP Ia may result from tissue-specific imprinting of the GNAS1 gene, although the Gsα knockout model only in part reproduces the human AHO phenotype. Activating somatic Gsα mutations leading to cell proliferation have been identified in endocrine tumors constituted by cells in which cAMP is a mitogenic signal, i.e. GH-secreting pituitary adenomas, hyperfunctioning thyroid adenomas and Leydig cell tumors. When the same mutations occur very early in embryogenesis they cause McCune-Albright syndrome. Although these mutations would in principle confer growth advantage, studies failed to detect differences in the clinical and hormonal phenotypes, suggesting the existence of mechanisms able to counteract the activation of the cAMP pathway. Activating mutations of Gi2α have been identified in a subset of ovarian, adrenal and pituitary tumors, but their prevalence and significance are still controversial. Finally, although Gα subunits are the only components of the heterotrimeric GTP binding proteins which harbor known mutations, β/γ subunits should be considered possible targets of genetic alterations as suggested by the frequent presence of β3 subunit variants in patients with essential hypertension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-559
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Endocrinology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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