How does congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) occur?

Updated: Oct 06, 2020
  • Author: Thomas A Wilson, MD; Chief Editor: Sasigarn A Bowden, MD  more...
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Two copies of an abnormal gene are required for disease to occur, and not all mutations and partial deletions result in disease. The phenotype can vary from clinically inapparent disease (occult or cryptic adrenal hyperplasia) to a mild form of disease that is expressed in adolescence or adulthood (nonclassic adrenal hyperplasia) to severe disease that results in adrenal insufficiency in infancy with or without virilization and salt wasting (classic adrenal hyperplasia). The most common form of adrenal hyperplasia (due to a deficiency of 21-hydroxylase activity) is clinically divided into 3 phenotypes: salt wasting, simple virilizing, and nonclassic.

CYP21A is the gene that codes for 21-hydroxylase, CYP11B1 codes for 11-beta-hydroxylase, and CYP17 codes for 17-alpha-hydroxylase. Many of the enzymes involved in cortisol and aldosterone syntheses are cytochrome P450 (CYP) proteins.

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