Corticosteroid-binding globulin is a 383-amino acid glycoprotein that serves a hormone transport role and may have functions related to the stress response and inflammation. We describe a 39-member Italian-Australian family with a novel complete loss of function (null) mutation of the corticosteroid-binding globulin gene. A second, previously described, mutation (Lyon) segregated independently in the same kindred. The novel exon 2 mutation led to a premature termination codon corresponding to residue -12 of the procorticosteroid-binding globulin molecule (c.121G-->A). Among 32 family members there were 3 null homozygotes, 19 null heterozygotes, 2 compound heterozygotes, 3 Lyon heterozygotes, and 5 individuals without corticosteroid-binding globulin mutations. Plasma immunoreactive corticosteroid-binding globulin was undetectable in null homozygotes, and mean corticosteroid-binding globulin levels were reduced by approximately 50% at 18.7 +/- 1.3 microg/ml (reference range, 30-52 microg/ml) in null heterozygotes. Morning total plasma cortisol levels were less than 1.8 microg/dl in homozygotes and were positively correlated to the plasma corticosteroid-binding globulin level in heterozygotes. Homozygotes and heterozygote null mutation subjects had a high prevalence of hypotension and fatigue. Among 19 adults with the null mutation, the systolic blood pressure z-score was 12.1 +/- 3.5; 11 of 19 subjects (54%) had a systolic blood pressure below the third percentile. The mean diastolic blood pressure z-score was 18.1 +/- 3.4; 8 of 19 subjects (42%) had a diastolic blood pressure z-score below 10. Idiopathic chronic fatigue was present in 12 of 14 adult null heterozygote subjects (86%) and in 2 of 3 null homozygotes. Five cases met the Centers for Disease Control criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome. Fatigue questionnaires revealed scores of 25.1 +/- 2.5 in 18 adults with the mutation vs. 4.2 +/- 1.5 in 23 healthy controls (P < 0.0001). Compound heterozygosity for both mutations resulted in plasma cortisol levels comparable to those in null homozygotes. Abnormal corticosteroid-binding globulin concentrations or binding affinity may lead to the misdiagnosis of isolated ACTH deficiency. The mechanism of the association between fatigue and relative hypotension is not established by these studies. As idiopathic fatigue disorders are associated with relatively low plasma cortisol, abnormalities of corticosteroid-binding globulin may be pathogenic.
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