A rapid screening assay for inhibitors of 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (11beta-HSD): flavanone selectively inhibits 11beta-HSD1 reductase activity

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2003 Dec 30;212(1-2):41-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2003.09.027.


A rapid screening assay for chemicals inhibiting 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11beta-HSD) type 1 or type 2 using lysates from stably transfected cells was developed. Here, we tested a series of environmental chemicals for anti-11beta-HSD activities. Inhibition of 11beta-HSD2, which may cause cortisol-dependent activation of the mineralocorticoid receptor with sodium retention and hypertension, was observed for several compounds, with diethylcarbamate being the most potent inhibitor (IC50 6.3 microM). Abietic acid inhibited both 11beta-HSD1 (IC50 27 microM for reduction and 2.8 microM for oxidation) and 11beta-HSD2 (IC50 12 microM). Our results demonstrate for the first time that flavanone selectively inhibits 11beta-HSD1 reductase activity: this enzyme being considered as essential for the local activation of glucocorticoids and representing a potential target for the therapeutic treatment of diabetes type 2. Flavanone and 2'-hydroxyflavanone efficiently inhibited reductive (IC50 18 and 10 microM) but not oxidative activity. We observed a reduced inhibitory effect of hydroxylated flavanone derivatives and of flavones containing a double-bond between atom C2 and C3. Flavanone was specific for 11beta-HSD1 and did not inhibit 11beta-HSD2. Our results reveal that a variety of environmental compounds exert distinct inhibitory effects on 11beta-HSD1 and 11beta-HSD2, opening the possibility for selectively modulating local cortisone/cortisol availability in vivo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1 / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1 / genetics
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1 / metabolism*
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / genetics
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases / metabolism*
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / chemistry
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / metabolism
  • Biological Assay / methods*
  • Cell Line
  • Environmental Pollutants / metabolism
  • Estrogen Antagonists / chemistry
  • Estrogen Antagonists / metabolism
  • Flavanones / chemistry
  • Flavanones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Isoenzymes / genetics
  • Isoenzymes / metabolism
  • Molecular Structure
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Plant Structures / chemistry
  • Plant Structures / metabolism
  • Receptors, Steroid / metabolism


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Flavanones
  • Isoenzymes
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1
  • 11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases
  • flavanone