Glucocorticoids play an essential role in the regulation of key physiological processes, including immunomodulation, brain function, energy metabolism, electrolyte balance and blood pressure. Exposure to naturally occurring compounds or industrial chemicals that impair glucocorticoid action may contribute to the increasing incidence of cognitive deficits, immune disorders and metabolic diseases. Potentially, “glucocorticoid disruptors” can interfere with various steps of hormone action, e.g. hormone synthesis, binding to plasma proteins, delivery to target cells, pre-receptor regulation of the ratio of active versus inactive hormones, glucocorticoid receptor (GR) function, or export and degradation of glucocorticoids. Several recent studies indicate that such chemicals exist and that some of them can cause multiple toxic effects by interfering with different steps of hormone action. For example, increasing evidence suggests that organotins disturb glucocorticoid action by altering the function of factors that regulate the expression of 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11beta-HSD) pre-receptor enzymes, by direct inhibition of 11beta-HSD2-dependent inactivation of glucocorticoids, and by blocking GR activation. These observations emphasize on the complexity of the toxic effects caused by such compounds and on the need of suitable test systems to assess their effects on each relevant step.
Sources and more information
- Disruption of glucocorticoid action by environmental chemicals: potential mechanisms and relevance, NCBI PMID: 17045799, 2006 Dec;102(1-5):222-31. Epub 2006 Oct 12.
- Full text link, The Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, pii/S0960076006002512, doi:10.1016/j.jsbmb.2006.09.010.