Dopamine D2 receptor expression in the corticotroph cells of the human normal pituitary gland.
Although in the majority of the patients with Cushing's syndrome (CS), hypercortisolism is due to ACTH hypersecretion by a pituitary tumour or to ectopic ACTH secretion from an extrapituitary neoplastic lesion or to autonomous cortisol secretion by an adrenal tumour, in occasional patients a much rarer entity may be the cause of the syndrome. Herein, we attempted to summarise and categorise these unusual causes according to their presumed aetiology. To this end, we performed a comprehensive computer-based search for unusual or rare causes of CS. The following unusual forms of CS were identified: (i) ACTH hyperesecretion due to ectopic corticotroph adenomas in the parasellar region or the neurohypophysis, or as part of double adenomas, or gangliocytomas; (ii) ACTH hypersecretion due to ectopic CRH or CRH-like peptide secretion by various neoplasms; (iii) ACTH-independent cortisol hypersecretion from ectopic or bilateral adrenal adenomas; (iv) glucocorticoid hypersensitivity; (v) iatrogenic, due to megestrol administration or to ritonavir and fluticasone co-administration. Such unusual presentations of CS illustrate why Cushing's syndrome represents one of the most puzzling endocrine syndromes.