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Stress. 2019 Sep 10:1-5. doi: 10.1080/10253890.2019.1658736. [Epub ahead of print]

Glucocorticoids regulate adipose tissue protein concentration in a depot- and sex-specific manner.

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Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University , Fort Collins , CO , USA.
Department of Psychology Experimental Psychology Program, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Cincinnati , Cincinnati , OH , USA.


Preclinical and clinical findings indicate that glucocorticoids (GC) induce lipid accumulation in visceral depots, while inhibiting lipid stores from subcutaneous depots. Whereas some suggest that this is due to adipose depot specific concentration of glucocorticoid receptors (GR) or 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (11β-HSD1), others demonstrate these events emerge from increases in interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) from macrophages within distinct depots. Regardless of the mechanisms, most of these studies occur in males and thus lack evaluation of sex differences. Here, we examined the impact of 2-week corticosterone (CORT) (3 mg/kg/day) or saline treatment on GR, 11β-HSD1 and IL-1β protein concentration in intra-abdominal (epididymal/parametrial, and visceral) and subcutaneous (inguinal) depots in male and female Sprague Dawley rats. The objective was to examine if factors that regulate GC-induced adipose depot metabolism and distribution, differ between males and females. CORT inhibited, but did not decrease, body weight gain in both sexes. 11β-HSD1 was similar between the sexes in all adipose depots. CORT increased IL-1β in both sexes only in gonadal adipose tissue. Overall, males had greater GR protein concentration in all adipose depots, whereas females had more IL-1β in intra-abdominal adipose depots. Given the male-biased increase in intra-abdominal GR protein concentration, the data suggest that males may be more prone to CORT-induced increases in visceral obesity, which may have implications for increased risk for metabolic diseases. Overall, the data suggest that the effects of GC signaling in adipose tissue are multifaceted, dependent on sex, and the inherent adipocyte characteristics. Lay summary Research supports that glucocorticoids (GC) induce visceral adipose tissue accumulation, however few studies have examined if these GC-mediated outcomes are similar between males and females. This study investigates if female rats differentially respond to corticosterone treatment. Results indicate that male rats may have an increased susceptibility to CORT-induced accumulation of visceral adipose tissue compared with females, which may have implication for sex-specific risk for metabolic diseases.


11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1; Glucocorticoids; glucocorticoid receptor; interleukin-1 beta; subcutaneous adipose tissue; visceral adipose tissue

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