The activity of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 enzyme and cortisol secretion in patients with adrenal incidentalomas

Valentina Morelli, Elisa Polledri, Rosa Mercadante, Volha Zhukouskaya, Serena Palmieri, Paolo Beck-Peccoz, Anna Spada, Silvia Fustinoni, Iacopo Chiodini

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In adrenal incidentaloma (AI) patients, beside the cortisol secretion, a different 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD11B2) activity, measurable by 24-h urinary cortisol/cortisone ratio (R-UFF/UFE) (the higher R-UFF/UFE the lower HSD11B2 activity), could influence the occurrence of the subclinical hypercortisolism (SH)-related complications (hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity). We evaluated whether in AI patients, UFF levels are associated to UFE levels, and the HSD11B2 activity to the complications presence. In 156 AI patients (93F, age 65.2 ± 9.5 years), the following were measured: serum cortisol after 1 mg-dexamethasone test (1 mg-DST), ACTH, UFF, UFE levels, and R-UFF/UFE (by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry), the latter was also evaluated in 63 matched-controls. We diagnosed SH (n = 22) in the presence of ≥2 among ACTH 83 nmol/L. Patients showed higher UFF levels and R-UFF/UFE than controls (75.9 ± 43.1 vs 54.4 ± 22.9 nmol/24 h and 0.26 ± 0.12 vs 0.20 ± 0.07, p <0.005, respectively) but comparable UFE levels (291 ± 91.1 vs 268 ± 61.5, p = 0.069). The R-UFF/UFE was higher in patients with high (h-UFF, n = 28, 0.41 ± 0.20) than in those with normal (n-UFF, 0.22 ± 0.10, p <0.005) UFF levels and in patients with SH than in those without SH (0.30 ± 0.12 vs 0.25 ± 0.12, p = 0.04). UFF levels were associated with R-UFF/UFE (r = 0.849, p <0.001) in n-UFF, but not in h-UFF patients. Among h-UFF patients, the complications prevalence was not associated with R-UFF/UFE values. In AI patients, the UFF increase is not associated with a UFE increase. The HSD11B2 activity is inversely associated with UFF levels in n-UFF patients but not in h-UFF patients, and it is not associated with the SH complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-815
Number of pages7
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Adrenal incidentalomas
  • Subclinical hypercortisolism
  • Tandem mass spectrometry
  • Urinary free cortisol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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