Permissive and suppressive effects of dexamethasone on enzyme induction in hepatocyte co-cultures

Xenobiotica. 2002 Aug;32(8):653-66. doi: 10.1080/00498250210144811.


1. Steroids are known to act as permissive factors in hepatocytes. This study shows that dexamethasone (DEX) is a permissive factor for induction of CYP2B1/2, CYP3A1, CYP2A1 and probably also CYP2C11 in cultures with primary rat hepatocytes. 2. The induction factor of phenobarbital (PB)-induced formation of 16beta-hydroxytestosterone (OHT), a testosterone biotransformation product predominantly formed by CYP2B1, is increased 18-fold by the addition of 32 nM DEX to the culture medium. Interestingly, higher concentrations of DEX up to 1000 nM led to a concentration-dependent maximally 5-fold decrease (p = 0.002) of phenobarbital-induced 16beta-OHT formation compared with the effect observed with 32 nM DEX. Thus, DEX shows permissive and suppressive effects on enzyme induction depending on the concentration of the glucocorticoid. 3. Qualitatively similar but smaller permissive and suppressive effects of DEX were observed for PB-induced CYP3A1 activity as evidenced by formation of 2beta-, 6beta- and 15beta-OHT. 4. DEX is a permissive factor for induction of CYP2A1 activity by 3-methylcholanthrene (3MC), as evidenced by the formation of 7alpha-OHT. Without addition of DEX, 3MC did not induce formation of 7alpha-OHT, whereas an almost 3-fold induction occurred in the presence of DEX. In contrast to CYP2B and CYP3A, concentrations up to 1000 nM DEX were not suppressive for the induction of CYP2A1. 5. We described recently a technique that allows preparation of cultures from cryopreserved hepatocytes. An almost identical influence of dexamethasone on enzyme induction was observed here in cultures from cryopreserved compared with freshly isolated hepatocytes. 6. Cultures with primary hepatocyte cultures represent a well-established technique for the study of drug-drug interactions. However, a large interlaboratory variation is known. Our study provides evidence that differences in glucocorticoid concentration in the culture medium contribute to this variation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology*
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Cryopreservation
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1 / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2B1 / metabolism
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Enzyme Activation
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Hepatocytes / drug effects*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Hydroxytestosterones / pharmacology
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Phenobarbital / pharmacology
  • Protein Isoforms
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Steroid 16-alpha-Hydroxylase / metabolism
  • Steroid Hydroxylases / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Hydroxytestosterones
  • Protein Isoforms
  • 16-hydroxytestosterone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Steroid Hydroxylases
  • Aryl Hydrocarbon Hydroxylases
  • CYP2C11 protein, rat
  • Cyp3a23-3a1 protein, rat
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP1A1
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP2B1
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • Cytochrome P450 Family 2
  • Steroid 16-alpha-Hydroxylase
  • steroid 16-beta-hydroxylase
  • testosterone 7-alpha-hydroxylase, hamster
  • Phenobarbital