Dehydroepiandrosterone and its 7-hydroxylated metabolites do not interfere with the transactivation and cellular trafficking of the glucocorticoid receptor

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2004 Dec;92(5):469-76. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2004.10.014. Epub 2004 Dec 19.


The human brain is a target tissue for glucocorticoids (GC). Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a neurosteroid produced in the brain where it is transformed into 7alpha-hydroxy-DHEA and 7beta-hydroxy-DHEA. The antiglucocorticoid effects of both 7-hydroxylated metabolites have been investigated with evidence in mice that neither form of DHEA interfered with the binding of GC to its glucocorticoid receptor (GR), but contributed to a decreased nuclear uptake of the activated GR. Our objective was to use COS-7 cell culture to research DHEA, 7alpha-hydroxy-DHEA and 7beta-hydroxy-DHEA interferences with GR trafficking. These cells did not carry out the 7alpha-hydroxylation of DHEA and the oxidation of cortisol into cortisone. The cDNA of the human GR was inserted into pcDNA3 for a transient transfection of COS-7 cells. Human GR transactivation activity was measured from a luciferase-MMTV reporter gene. The transfected COS-7 cells were cultured using 10(-12) to 10(-5) M dexamethasone (DEX) or cortisol, which triggered the reporter expression. Treatment with 10(-12) to 10(-5) M DHEA, 7alpha-hydroxy-DHEA and 7beta-hydroxy-DHEA caused no change in the GC-induced GR transactivation. A reconstruction of the process associated EGFP to the human GR cDNA. Confocal microscopic examination of COS-7 cells transiently expressing the fusion protein EGFP-GR showed nuclear fluorescence 60 min after incubation with 10(-8) M DEX or cortisol. The addition of 10(-5) M DHEA, 7alpha-hydroxy-DHEA or 7beta-hydroxy-DHEA did not change its kinesis and intensity. These results contribute to the knowledge of DHEA, 7alpha-hydroxy-DHEA and 7beta-hydroxy-DHEA, in relation to antiglucocorticoid activity. We conclude that direct interference with GR trafficking can be discounted in the case of these hormones, therefore proposing new possibilities of investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • COS Cells
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / analogs & derivatives*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / metabolism*
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxylation
  • Protein Transport / drug effects
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism*
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Transcriptional Activation / drug effects*


  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone
  • 7-hydroxydehydroepiandrosterone