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Although thiazolidinediones were designed as specific peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-gamma-ligands, there is evidence for some off-target effects mediated by a non-PPARgamma mechanism. Previously we have shown that rosiglitazone has antiinflammatory actions not explicable by activation of PPARgamma,but possibly by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Rosiglitazone induces nuclear translocation both of GR-green fluorescent protein, and endogenous GR in HeLa and U20S cells but with slower kinetics than dexamethasone. Rosiglitazone also induces GR phosphorylation (Ser211), a GR ligand-binding-specific effect. Rosiglitazone drives luciferase expression from a simple glucocorticoid-response element containing reporter gene in a GR-dependent manner (EC50 4 microm), with a similar amplitude response to the partial GR agonist RU486. Rosiglitazone also inhibits dexamethasone-driven reporter gene activity (IC50 2.9 microm) in a similar fashion to RU486, suggesting partial agonist activity. Importantly we demonstrate a similar effect in PPARgamma-null cells, suggesting both GR dependence and PPARgamma independence. Rosiglitazone also activates a GAL4-GR chimera, driving a upstream activating sequence promoter, demonstrating DNA template sequence independence and furthermore enhanced steroid receptor coactivator-1-GR interaction, measured by a mammalian two-hybrid assay. Both ciglitazone and pioglitazone, structurally related to rosiglitazone, show similar effects on the GR. The antiproliferative effect of rosiglitazone is increased in U20S cells that overexpress GR, suggesting a biologically important GR-dependent component of rosiglitazone action. Rosiglitazone is a partial GR agonist, affecting GR activation and trafficking to influence engagement of target genes and affect cell function. This novel mode of action may explain some off-target effects observed in vivo. Additionally, antagonism of glucocorticoid action may contribute to the antidiabetic actions of rosiglitazone.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





75 - 86


Cell Division, Cell Line, Tumor, Dexamethasone, Enzyme Activation, Genes, Reporter, HeLa Cells, Hormone Antagonists, Humans, Luciferases, Lung Neoplasms, Mifepristone, PPAR gamma, Receptors, Glucocorticoid, Rosiglitazone, Thiazolidinediones, Transfection