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Glucocorticoids (GC) are implicated in the development of metabolic syndrome, and patients with GC excess share many clinical features, such as central obesity and glucose intolerance. In patients with obesity or type 2 diabetes, systemic GC concentrations seem to be invariably normal. Tissue GC concentrations determined by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and local cortisol (corticosterone in mice) regeneration from cortisone (11-dehydrocorticosterone in mice) by the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) enzyme, principally expressed in the liver. Transgenic mice have demonstrated the importance of 11β-HSD1 in mediating aspects of the metabolic syndrome, as well as HPA axis control. In order to address the primacy of hepatic 11β-HSD1 in regulating metabolism and the HPA axis, we have generated liver-specific 11β-HSD1 knockout (LKO) mice, assessed biomarkers of GC metabolism, and examined responses to high-fat feeding. LKO mice were able to regenerate cortisol from cortisone to 40% of control and had no discernible difference in a urinary metabolite marker of 11β-HSD1 activity. Although circulating corticosterone was unaltered, adrenal size was increased, indicative of chronic HPA stimulation. There was a mild improvement in glucose tolerance but with insulin sensitivity largely unaffected. Adiposity and body weight were unaffected as were aspects of hepatic lipid homeostasis, triglyceride accumulation, and serum lipids. Additionally, no changes in the expression of genes involved in glucose or lipid homeostasis were observed. Liver-specific deletion of 11β-HSD1 reduces corticosterone regeneration and may be important for setting aspects of HPA axis tone, without impacting upon urinary steroid metabolite profile. These discordant data have significant implications for the use of these biomarkers of 11β-HSD1 activity in clinical studies. The paucity of metabolic abnormalities in LKO points to important compensatory effects by HPA activation and to a crucial role of extrahepatic 11β-HSD1 expression, highlighting the contribution of cross talk between GC target tissues in determining metabolic phenotype.

Original publication

DOI

10.1210/en.2012-1019

Type

Journal article

Journal

Endocrinology

Publication Date

07/2012

Volume

153

Pages

3236 - 3248

Keywords

11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1, Alleles, Animals, Biomarkers, Cortisone, Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic, Glucocorticoids, Hydrocortisone, Liver, Male, Mice, Mice, Inbred C57BL, Mice, Knockout, Mice, Transgenic, Microsomes, Liver, Phenotype