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J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 1994 Jun;49(4-6):429-34.

Corticosteroid receptors in lymphocytes: a possible marker of brain involution?

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  • 1Istituto Semeiotica Medica, University of Padua, Chair of Endocrinology, Italy.


A similarity has recently been found between the regulation of corticosteroid receptors in brain and in lymphoid tissue. We have studied the regulation of corticosteroid receptors in human mononuclear leukocytes as a possible marker of brain involution. Type I corticosteroid receptors are down regulated by excess of mineralocorticoids (primary and secondary hyperaldosteronism, pseudohyperaldosteronism) and of glucocorticoids (Cushing's syndrome). Type II corticosteroid receptors are not reduced by excess of endogenous corticosteroids (Cushing's syndrome). In normal adults there is a direct significant correlation between plasma cortisol and Type I and between plasma cortisol and Type II receptors in mononuclear leukocytes, while in Cushing's syndrome the correlation is inverse between plasma cortisol at 8 a.m. and Type II receptors. In an aged population the mean numbers of Type I and of Type II receptors are lower and plasma cortisol is higher than in adult controls, but the increase of plasma cortisol is not followed by a clinical picture of hypercorticism. Corticosteroid Type I and Type II receptors are inversely correlated with age. After dexamethasone suppression (1 mg at 11 p.m.) Type I receptors always decrease in controls while the response of Type II is not homogeneous. In an aged group of patients, both receptors are reduced by dexamethasone. We conclude that the decrease with age of corticosteroid receptors is possibly related to a physiological involution of corticosteroid receptors and that this reduction does increase plasma cortisol concentration, without affecting the glucocorticoid effector mechanism.

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