Indexed on: 01 Mar '97Published on: 01 Mar '97Published in: The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism
Adrenal cortex autoantibodies (ACA) were measured by immunofluorescence in 808 children with organ-specific autoimmune diseases without adrenal insufficiency. ACA were found in 14 children (1.7%), mostly in hypoparathyroidism (48%). Ten ACA-positive and 12 ACA-negative children were followed up for a maximum of 10 yr by evaluation of adrenocortical function (ACTH test) and autoantibody status. In all patients steroid-producing cell autoantibodies were assessed by immunofluorescence and autoantibodies to steroid 21-hydroxylase, 17 alpha-hydroxylase, and cytochrome P450 side-chain cleavage enzyme by immunoprecipitation assay. All 10 ACA-positive patients were positive for 21-hydroxylase autoantibodies. Six were positive for steroid-producing cell autoantibodies and 5 also for autoantibodies to 17 alpha-hydroxylase and/or P450 side-chain cleavage enzyme. Overt Addison's disease developed in 9 (90%) ACA/21-OH-antibody-positive children after 3-121 months, and 1 remaining child had subclinical hypoadrenalism. By contrast, all ACA/21-OH antibody-negative children maintained normal adrenal function. Adrenal failure was not related to ACA titres, sex, adrenal function, type of preexisting autoimmune disorder, or human leucocyte antigens D-related status. In conclusion, in children with autoimmune endocrine diseases, ACA/21-hydroxylase autoantibodies are important predictive markers for the development of Addison's disease.