Body mass and glucocorticoid response in asthma

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2008 Oct 1;178(7):682-7. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200801-076OC. Epub 2008 Jul 17.


Rationale: Obesity may alter glucocorticoid response in asthma.

Objectives: To evaluate the relationship between body mass index (BMI, kg/m(2)) and glucocorticoid response in subjects with and without asthma.

Methods: Nonsmoking adult subjects underwent characterization of lung function, BMI, and spirometric response to prednisone. Dexamethasone (DEX, 10(-6) M)-induced mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase-1 (MKP-1) and baseline tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha expression were evaluated by polymerase chain reaction in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and bronchoalveolar lavage cells. The relationship between BMI and expression of MKP-1 and TNF-alpha was analyzed.

Measurements and main results: A total of 45 nonsmoking adults, 33 with asthma (mean [SD] FEV(1)% of 70.7 [9.8]%) and 12 without asthma were enrolled. DEX-induced PBMC MKP-1 expression was reduced in overweight/obese versus lean patients with asthma, with mean (+/- SEM) fold-induction of 3.11 (+/-0.46) versus 5.27 (+/-0.66), respectively (P = 0.01). In patients with asthma, regression analysis revealed a -0.16 (+/-0.08)-fold decrease in DEX-induced MKP-1 per unit BMI increase (P = 0.04). PBMC TNF-alpha expression increased as BMI increased in subjects with asthma, with a 0.27 unit increase in log (TNF-alpha [ng/ml]) per unit BMI increase (P = 0.01). The ratio of PBMC log (TNF-alpha):DEX-induced MKP-1 also increased as BMI increased in patients with asthma (+0.09 +/- 0.02; P = 0.004). In bronchoalveolar lavage cells, DEX-induced MKP-1 expression was also reduced in overweight/obese versus lean patients with asthma (1.36 +/- 0.09-fold vs. 1.76 +/- 0.15-fold induction; P = 0.05). Similar findings were not observed in control subjects without asthma.

Conclusions: Elevated BMI is associated with blunted in vitro response to dexamethasone in overweight and obese patients with asthma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Dual Specificity Phosphatase 1 / drug effects*
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / drug effects*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Dexamethasone
  • DUSP1 protein, human
  • Dual Specificity Phosphatase 1