Rapid, nongenomic steroid actions: A new age?

Front Neuroendocrinol. 2000 Jan;21(1):57-94. doi: 10.1006/frne.1999.0189.


In the traditional theory of steroid action, steroids bind to intracellular receptors and modulate nuclear transcription after translocation of steroid-receptor complexes into the nucleus. Due to similarities of molecular structure, specific receptors for steroids, vitamin D(3) derivatives, and thyroid hormone are considered to represent a superfamily of steroid receptors. While genomic steroid effects characterized by their delayed onset of action and their sensitivity to blockers of transcription and protein synthesis have been known for several decades, rapid actions of steroids have been more widely recognized and characterized in detail only recently. Rapid effects of steroids, thyroid hormones, and the steroid hormone metabolite of vitamin D(3), 1alpha, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D(3), on cellular signaling and function may be transmitted by specific membrane receptors. Binding sites in membranes have been characterized, exposing binding features compatible with an involvement in rapid steroid signaling. Characteristics of putative membrane receptors are completely distinct from intracellular steroid receptors, a fact which is further supported by the inability of classic steroid receptor antagonists to block nongenomic steroid actions. A putative progesterone membrane receptor has been cloned and functionally expressed with regard to progesterone binding. Development of drugs that specifically affect nongenomic action alone or even both modes of action may find applications in various, areas such as in the cardiovascular and central nervous systems and treatment of preterm labor, infertility, and electrolyte abnormalities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cholecalciferol / pharmacology
  • Cholecalciferol / physiology
  • Gene Expression Regulation*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, Steroid / physiology*
  • Steroids / physiology*


  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Steroids
  • Cholecalciferol