Disorders of isolated mineralocorticoid deficiency causing potentially life-threatening salt-wasting crisis early in life have been associated with gene variants of aldosterone biosynthesis or resistance, but in some patients no such variants are found. WNT/β-catenin signaling is crucial for differentiation and maintenance of the aldosterone producing adrenal zona glomerulosa (zG). We describe a highly consanguineous family with multiple perinatal deaths or infants presenting at birth with failure to thrive, severe salt-wasting crises associated with isolated hypoaldosteronism, nail anomalies, short stature, and deafness. Whole exome sequencing revealed a homozygous splice variant in the R-SPONDIN receptor LGR4 gene (c.618-1G>C) regulating WNT signaling. The resulting transcripts affected protein function and stability, and resulted in loss of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in vitro. The impact of LGR4 inactivation was analyzed by adrenal cortex specific ablation of Lgr4, using Lgr4Flox/Flox mated with Sf1:Cre mice. Inactivation of Lgr4 within the adrenal cortex in the mouse model caused decreased WNT signaling, aberrant zonation with deficient zG and reduced aldosterone production. Thus, human LGR4 mutations establish a direct link between LGR4 inactivation and decreased canonical WNT signaling with abnormal zG differentiation and endocrine function. Therefore, variants in WNT signaling and its regulators should systematically be considered in familial hyperreninemic hypoaldosteronism.
Cécily Lucas, Kay-Sara Sauter, Michael Steigert, Delphine Mallet, James Wilmouth Jr., Julie Olabe, Ingrid Plotton, Yves Morel, Daniel Aeberli, Franca Wagner, Hans Clevers, Amit V. Pandey, Pierre Val, Florence Roucher-Boulez, Christa E. Fluck