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Mol Endocrinol. 2011 Jul;25(7):1075-86. doi: 10.1210/me.2011-0068. Epub 2011 Apr 21.

Minireview: Glucocorticoids in autoimmunity: unexpected targets and mechanisms.

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Hospital for Special Surgery Research Division, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, New York, New York 10021, USA.


For decades, natural and synthetic glucocorticoids (GC) have been among the most commonly prescribed classes of immunomodulatory drugs. Their unsurpassed immunosuppressive and antiinflammatory activity along with cost-effectiveness makes these compounds a treatment of choice for the majority of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, despite serious side effects that frequently accompany GC therapy. The activated GC receptor (GR) that conveys the signaling information of these steroid ligands to the transcriptional machinery engages a number of pathways to ultimately suppress autoimmune responses. Of those, GR-mediated apoptosis of numerous cell types of hematopoietic origin and suppression of proinflammatory cytokine gene expression have been described as the primary mechanisms responsible for the antiinflammatory actions of GC. However, along with the ever-increasing appreciation of the complex functions of the immune system in health and disease, we are beginning to recognize new facets of GR actions in immune cells. Here, we give a brief overview of the extensive literature on the antiinflammatory activities of GC and discuss in greater detail the unexpected pathways, factors, and mechanisms that have recently begun to emerge as novel targets for GC-mediated immunosuppression.

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