Tissue specificity of glucocorticoid sensitivity in healthy adults

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 Oct;85(10):3733-9. doi: 10.1210/jcem.85.10.6891.


Contradicting data exist as to whether interindividual patterns in glucocorticoid (GC) sensitivity vary between different target tissues in humans. This study therefore measured GC sensitivity in 36 healthy subjects in three target tissues: the immune system; the cardiovascular system, and the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. For this purpose, dexamethasone inhibition of lipopolysaccharide-induced interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha production in peripheral leukocytes, beclomethasone dipropionate-induced skin blanching, and suppression of cortisol levels after low-dose (0.5 mg) dexamethasone suppression test were determined in each subject. The results showed the expected glucocorticoid-induced suppression of interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha production (both P < 0.001), dose-dependent skin blanching (P < 0.001), and suppression of salivary cortisol response to awakening (P < 0.001). However, neither simple correlations nor cluster analysis revealed a significant association among the three bioassays for GC sensitivity. In contrast to the idea that interindividual variation in GC sensitivity is an intrinsic trait affecting all tissues, these results suggest that this variability is target tissue specific in healthy subjects.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dexamethasone
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Interleukins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Leukocytes / drug effects
  • Leukocytes / metabolism
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Organ Specificity
  • Reference Values
  • Regional Blood Flow / drug effects
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Skin / blood supply
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / biosynthesis


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukins
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Dexamethasone