Female bias is highly prevalent in conditions such as adrenal cortex hyperplasia and neoplasia, but the reasons behind this phenomenon are poorly understood. In this study, we show that overexpression of the secreted WNT agonist R-spondin 1 (RSPO1) leads to ectopic activation of WNT/β-catenin signaling and causes sex-specific adrenocortical hyperplasia in mice. Although female adrenals show ectopic proliferation, male adrenals display excessive immune system activation and cortical thinning. Using a combination of genetic manipulations and hormonal treatment, we show that gonadal androgens suppress ectopic proliferation in the adrenal cortex and determine the selective regulation of the WNT-related genes Axin2 and Wnt4. Notably, genetic removal of androgen receptor (AR) from adrenocortical cells restores the mitogenic effect of WNT/β-catenin signaling. This is the first demonstration that AR activity in the adrenal cortex determines susceptibility to canonical WNT signaling-induced hyperplasia.
|Disease models & mechanisms
|Published - 1 Jun 2023
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Male, Mice, Female, Animals, Wnt Signaling Pathway, Receptors, Androgen/genetics, beta Catenin/metabolism, Hyperplasia, Wnt Proteins/genetics, Adrenocortical hyperplasia, R-spondin signaling, Androgen receptor, Sexual dimorphism