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Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1995 Aug;43(2):197-203.

Temperature-induced down-regulation of the glucocorticoid receptor in peripheral blood mononuclear leucocyte in patients with sepsis or septic shock.

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1
Department of Medicine, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is of vital importance during critical illness. We have studied the adaptive mechanisms which occur at the level of the glucocorticoid receptor in glucocorticoid target tissues in patients with sepsis or septic shock.

DESIGN:

The effects of hypercortisolaemia, hyperthermia and cellular composition on number of glucocorticoid receptors per cell and their affinity were evaluated, both in vitro and in vivo, in peripheral blood mononuclear leucocytes of control subjects and in patients with sepsis or septic shock.

SUBJECTS:

Fifteen patients (age 25-79) with sepsis or septic shock who were admitted to an intensive care unit were studied. The control group consisted of 24 healthy laboratory employees.

MEASUREMENTS:

The binding capacity and affinity of the glucocorticoid receptors were measured and compared to clinical data and the plasma cortisol concentrations.

RESULTS:

Hypercortisolaemia, in vitro, resulted in a decreased affinity and a decreased binding capacity of the glucocorticoid receptor. In vitro, hyperthermia as well as variations in the cellular composition did not influence the glucocorticoid receptor. In vivo, there was no change in the number of receptors per cell in patients with sepsis or septic shock as compared to healthy controls. However, a decreased affinity of the glucocorticoid receptor was observed. There was a weak but significant negative correlation between body temperature and the number of glucocorticoid receptors in the patient group. There was no relation between circulating cortisol concentrations and glucocorticoid receptor affinity and number.

CONCLUSIONS:

There is no obvious regulation of the number of glucocorticoid receptors by plasma cortisol concentrations in vivo. The decreased affinity of the glucocorticoid receptor together with the negative correlation between hyperthermia and the number of glucocorticoid receptors in patients with sepsis or septic shock suggest that hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activation during critical illness is accompanied by peripheral adaptation in glucocorticoid receptor number and affinity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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