Familial Cancer

, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 355-363

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Recent advances in the genetics of SDH-related paraganglioma and pheochromocytoma

  • Erik F. HensenAffiliated withDepartment of Otolaryngology and Head- and Neck Surgery, VU University Medical Center
  • , Jean-Pierre BayleyAffiliated withDepartment of Human Genetics, Leiden University Medical Centre Email author 


The last 10 years have seen enormous progress in the field of paraganglioma and pheochromocytoma genetics. The identification of the first gene related to paraganglioma, SDHD, encoding a subunit of mitochondrial succinate dehydrogenase (SDH), was quickly followed by the identification of mutations in SDHC and SDHB. Very recently several new SDH-related genes have been discovered. The SDHAF2 gene encodes an SDH co-factor related to the function of the SDHA subunit, and is currently exclusively associated with head and neck paragangliomas. SDHA itself has now also been identified as a paraganglioma gene, with the recent identification of the first mutation in a patient with extra-adrenal paraganglioma. Another SDH-related co-factor, SDHAF1, is not currently known to be a tumor suppressor, but may shed some light on the mechanisms of tumorigenesis. An entirely novel gene associated with adrenal pheochromocytoma, TMEM127, suggests that other new paraganglioma susceptibility genes may await discovery. In addition to these recent discoveries, new techniques related to mutation analysis, including genetic analysis algorithms, SDHB immunohistochemistry, and deletion analysis by MLPA have improved the efficiency and accuracy of genetic analysis. However, many intriguing questions remain, such as the striking differences in the clinical phenotype of genes that encode proteins with an apparently very close functional relationship, and the lack of expression of SDHD and SDHAF2 mutations when inherited via the maternal line. Little is still known of the origins and causes of truly sporadic tumors, and the role of oxygen in the relationships between high-altitude, familial and truly sporadic paragangliomas remains to be elucidated.


Paraganglioma Pheochromocytoma SDHA SDHAF1 SDHAF2 SDHB SDHC SDHD TMEM127