Pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modeling of corticosterone suppression and lymphocytopenia by methylprednisolone in rats

J Pharm Sci. 2008 Jul;97(7):2820-32. doi: 10.1002/jps.21167.


Adrenal suppression and lymphocytopenia are commonly monitored pharmacological responses during systemic exposure to exogenously administered corticosteroids. The pharmacodynamics of plasma corticosterone (CS) and blood lymphocytes were investigated in 60 normal rats which received either 50 mg/kg methylprednisolone (MPL) or vehicle intramuscularly. Blood samples were collected between 0.5 and 96 h following treatment. Plasma CS displayed a transient suppression with re-establishment of a normal circadian rhythm 24 h following drug treatment. An indirect response model with suppression of production well captured plasma CS profiles. An early stress-induced rise in CS was also factored into the model. Blood lymphocyte numbers exhibited a sharp decline and then returned to a new circadian rhythm which was half of the original baseline level. An integrated pharmacodynamic (PD) model with inhibition of lymphocyte trafficking from tissue to blood by both MPL and CS and induction of cell apoptosis by MPL reasonably captured this lymphocytopenia. Rats and humans differ in lymphocyte responses with humans showing full recovery of baselines. Modeling provides a valuable tool in quantitative assessment of dual, complex drug responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Corticosterone / blood*
  • Glucocorticoids* / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids* / pharmacokinetics
  • Glucocorticoids* / pharmacology
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Lymphocytes / cytology
  • Lymphopenia / blood
  • Lymphopenia / chemically induced*
  • Male
  • Methylprednisolone* / adverse effects
  • Methylprednisolone* / pharmacokinetics
  • Methylprednisolone* / pharmacology
  • Models, Biological*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Corticosterone
  • Methylprednisolone