As certain strains of mice age, hyperplastic lesions resembling gonadal tissue accumulate beneath the adrenal capsule. Gonadectomy (GDX) accelerates this heterotopic differentiation, resulting in the formation of wedge-shaped adrenocortical neoplasms that produce sex steroids. Stem/progenitor cells that reside in the adrenal capsule and retain properties of the adrenogonadal primordium are thought to be the source of this heterotopic tissue. Here, we demonstrate that GLI1+ progenitors in the adrenal capsule give rise to gonadal-like cells that accumulate in the subcapsular region. A tamoxifen-inducible Cre driver (Gli1-creERT2) and two reporters (R26R-lacZ, R26R-confetti) were used to track the fate of GLI1+ cells in the adrenal glands of B6D2F2 mice, a strain that develops both GDX-induced adrenocortical neoplasms and age-dependent subcapsular cell hyperplasia. In gonadectomized B6D2F2 mice GLI1+ progenitors contributed to long-lived adrenal capsule cells and to adrenocortical neoplasms that expressed Gata4 and Foxl2, two prototypical gonadal markers. Pdgfra, a gene expressed in adrenocortical stromal cells, was upregulated in the GDX-induced neoplasms. In aged non-gonadectomized B6D2F2 mice GLI1+ progenitors gave rise to patches of subcapsular cell hyperplasia. Treatment with GANT61, a small-molecule GLI antagonist, attenuated the upregulation of gonadal-like markers (Gata4, Amhr2, Foxl2) in response to GDX. These findings support the premise that GLI1+ progenitor cells in the adrenal capsule of the adult mouse give rise to heterotopic tissue.
- Adrenal cortex
- Lineage tracing