Glucocorticoid receptor alpha and beta in glucocorticoid dependent asthma

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2000 Jul;162(1):7-13. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.162.1.9911032.


Patients with glucocorticoid (GC)-dependent asthma present an ongoing inflammation of the airways despite chronic long-term treatment with oral GC. Interleukin (IL)-8 and granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) have been implicated in airway inflammation in severe asthma and their synthesis is normally repressed by GC. To further characterize the inflammatory process in GC-dependent asthma, we measured the release of IL-8 and GM-CSF by peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of eight normal subjects, six untreated controlled asthmatics, six untreated uncontrolled asthmatics, and nine GC-dependent asthmatics. We show that PBMC from GC-dependent asthmatics released high amounts of these cytokines despite chronic in vivo exposure to GC (p < 0.001 versus normal subjects). In contrast, when untreated uncontrolled asthmatics were given a short course of oral GC, IL-8 and GM-CSF production was inhibited (p = 0.0078). Release of IL-8 and GM-CSF by PBMC of GC-dependent asthmatics was reduced after in vitro GC treatment (p < 0.002). We investigated whether the incapacity of GC to inhibit production of these cytokines in vivo was the result of a dysregulation of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) in GC-dependent asthma. GRalpha and GRbeta are, respectively, the functional receptor and a putative dominant negative form of the receptor. Western blot and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analyses indicated that GRalpha was expressed at similar level in all groups and was largely predominant over GRbeta. Thus, persistent release of IL-8 and GM-CSF in GC-dependent asthma is not associated with low expression of GRalpha or overexpression of GRbeta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / blood
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-8 / biosynthesis
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / chemistry
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / biosynthesis
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / genetics
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / physiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Interleukin-8
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • glucocorticoid receptor alpha
  • glucocorticoid receptor beta
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor