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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Virilization without adrenal hyperplasia in 21-hydroxylase deficiency during fetal life.

The characteristic excess production of androgens in the cortisol 21-hydroxylase defect is generally considered to be secondary to ACTH stimulation of alternate pathways. Whenever a morphological examination of the adrenals has been possible in this disorder, adrenocortical hyperplasia was a constant finding. The availability of methods for the prenatal diagnosis of the 21-hydroxylase defect has made it possible to examine some of the manifestations of this disorder during fetal life. We studied a severely virilized 20-week-old aborted female fetus with the 21-hydroxylase defect whose adrenals were neither grossly enlarged nor microscopically hyperplastic. In a pregnancy at risk for congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to a 21-hydroxylase deficiency, amniocentesis was performed in the 18th week of gestation. The 21-hydroxylase defect was established by HLA typing and highly elevated levels of 17-hydroxyprogesterone, testosterone, and androstendione in amniotic fluid. After counselling, the parents, who already had a girl with the salt-wasting form of 21-hydroxylase deficiency, wished termination of the pregnancy. The aborted 20-week-old fetus was within the normal range for gestational age in weight and height. The external genitalia were ambiguous and extremely virilized, with an enlarged clitoris and fused labioscrotal folds. A urogenital sinus opened at the base of the clitoris. The internal organs were female, with a normal uterus and ovaries. Both adrenals were normal in size and weight for their gestational age. Histological examination of the adrenals revealed no abnormalities, and no hyperplasia was detectable. Thus, the adrenals in the 21-hydroxylase defect during fetal life secrete excessive amounts of androgens and cause virilization in the absence of adrenocortical hyperplasia.[1]


  1. Virilization without adrenal hyperplasia in 21-hydroxylase deficiency during fetal life. Kuhnle, U., Böhm, N., Wolff, G., Mayerová, A., Dörr, H.G., Bidlingmaier, F., Knorr, D. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. (1984) [Pubmed]
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