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CONTEXT: In animals, peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha (PPARalpha) and PPARgamma agonists down-regulate 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11beta-HSD1) mRNA and activity in liver and adipose tissue, respectively, and PPARgamma agonists reduce ACTH secretion from corticotrope cells. OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to test whether PPAR agonists alter cortisol secretion and peripheral regeneration by 11beta-HSD1 in humans and whether reduced cortisol action contributes to metabolic effects of PPARgamma agonists. DESIGN AND SETTING: Three randomized placebo-controlled crossover studies were conducted at a clinical research facility. PATIENTS AND PARTICIPANTS: Healthy men and patients with type 2 diabetes participated. INTERVENTIONS, OUTCOME MEASURES, AND RESULTS: In nine healthy men, 7 d of PPARalpha agonist (fenofibrate) or PPARgamma agonist (rosiglitazone) had no effect on cortisol secretion, hepatic cortisol generation after oral cortisone administration, or tracer kinetics during 9,11,12,12-[(2)H](4)-cortisol infusion, although rosiglitazone marginally reduced cortisol generation in sc adipose tissue measured by in vivo microdialysis. In 12 healthy men, 4-5 wk of rosiglitazone increased insulin sensitivity during insulin infusion but did not change 11beta-HSD1 mRNA or activity in sc adipose tissue, and insulin sensitization was unaffected by glucocorticoid blockade with a combination of metyrapone and RU38486. In 12 men with type 2 diabetes 12 wk of rosiglitazone reduced arteriovenous cortisone extraction across abdominal sc adipose tissue and reduced 11beta-HSD1 mRNA in sc adipose tissue but increased plasma cortisol concentrations. CONCLUSIONS: Neither PPARalpha nor PPARgamma agonists down-regulate 11beta-HSD1 or cortisol secretion acutely in humans. The early insulin-sensitizing effect of rosiglitazone is not dependent on reducing intracellular glucocorticoid concentrations. Reduced adipose 11beta-HSD1 expression and increased plasma cortisol during longer therapy with rosiglitazone probably reflect indirect effects, e.g. mediated by changes in body fat.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Endocrinol Metab

Publication Date





1848 - 1856


11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1, Adult, Aged, Cortisone, Cross-Over Studies, Double-Blind Method, Enzyme Inhibitors, Fenofibrate, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, Hormone Antagonists, Humans, Hydrocortisone, Hypolipidemic Agents, Insulin Resistance, Kinetics, Liver, Male, Metyrapone, Microdialysis, Middle Aged, Mifepristone, Obesity, PPAR alpha, PPAR gamma, Rosiglitazone, Subcutaneous Fat, Thiazolidinediones