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J Exp Med. 2005 Aug 15;202(4):517-27.

11beta-HSD1 inhibition ameliorates metabolic syndrome and prevents progression of atherosclerosis in mice.

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Merck Research Laboratories, Merck and Company, Rahway, NJ 07065, USA.


The enzyme 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD) type 1 converts inactive cortisone into active cortisol in cells, thereby raising the effective glucocorticoid (GC) tone above serum levels. We report that pharmacologic inhibition of 11beta-HSD1 has a therapeutic effect in mouse models of metabolic syndrome. Administration of a selective, potent 11beta-HSD1 inhibitor lowered body weight, insulin, fasting glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol in diet-induced obese mice and lowered fasting glucose, insulin, glucagon, triglycerides, and free fatty acids, as well as improved glucose tolerance, in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes. Most importantly, inhibition of 11beta-HSD1 slowed plaque progression in a murine model of atherosclerosis, the key clinical sequela of metabolic syndrome. Mice with a targeted deletion of apolipoprotein E exhibited 84% less accumulation of aortic total cholesterol, as well as lower serum cholesterol and triglycerides, when treated with an 11beta-HSD1 inhibitor. These data provide the first evidence that pharmacologic inhibition of intracellular GC activation can effectively treat atherosclerosis, the key clinical consequence of metabolic syndrome, in addition to its salutary effect on multiple aspects of the metabolic syndrome itself.

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