McCune-Albright syndrome (MAS) is an non-genetic disorder in which affected subjects show a variety of seemingly unrelated abnormalities including polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, pigmented skin lesions (cafe-au- lait spots), and autonomous hyperfunction of various endocrine organs including gonads, anterior pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal cortex. The endocrine abnormalities lead to precocious puberty, gigantism/acromegaly, hyperthyroidism, and hypercortisolism. The cause of this sporadic disorder has been enigmatic, but speculations have centered on a defect in signal transduction leading to endocrine hyperfunction. The distribution of skin lesions has also suggested the possibility of a somatic mutation acquired early in embryogenesis and affecting only a subset of cells (mosaicism). Since a G protein mutation could plausibly explain the endocrine manifestations, we searched for and found mutations of the Gs-alpha gene that lead to constitutive activation of the Gs protein. These mutations were found in a mosaic distribution; notably, mutant gene was undetectable in normal-appearing portions of endocrine glands, but as present at heterozygous levels in neoplastic portions of endocrine tissue. Mutant Gs-alpha was also detected in dysplastic bone lesions, both in the polyostotic, "classical" form of MAS and in a "form fruste" of the disease, monostotic fibrous dysplasia. Occurrence of mutant Gs-alpha in organs such as heart and liver suggest a possible role in "non-classical" manifestations, including sudden death. Our studies suggest that MAS is caused by a somatic mutation in the Gs-alpha gene occurring early in development and found in a mosaic distribution. More focal manifestations of the disease such as monostotic fibrous dysplasia may be caused by somatic mutation of the Gs-alpha gene occurring later in development.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
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