Clinical features associated with glucocorticoid receptor polymorphisms. An overview

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2009 Oct;1179:179-98. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05013.x.


The glucocorticoid receptor (GR) is crucial for the effects of glucocorticoids (GCs). Several polymorphisms of the GR are associated with altered sensitivity to GCs. For the ER22/23EK polymorphism, a relative GC resistance has been demonstrated. In vivo, this was suggested by a smaller response to a dexamethasone suppression test (DST), whereas in vitro experiments showed a diminished transactivational activity. The associated features of ER22/23EK carriers consist of favorable metabolic and body compositional conditions. In elderly subjects this polymorphism was associated with longevity and decreased risk of dementia. Interestingly, recent studies also showed an increased risk of major depression. In contrast, the N363S polymorphism was reported to be associated with an enhanced sensitivity to GCs, as was demonstrated by a DST. This polymorphism has also been associated with increased body mass index (BMI) and LDL-cholesterol levels, as well as increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, additional studies yielded conflicting results, showing no associations with being overweight. The BclI polymorphism is also associated with increased GC sensitivity. In addition, associations with increased abdominal fat mass, Crohn's disease and, remarkably, major depression have been reported. Another GR polymorphism, located in exon 9beta, is associated with increased expression and stabilization of the dominant negative splice variant GR-beta. Carriers of this polymorphism displayed a relative GC resistance in vitro as evidenced by diminished transrepressional activity, which is important for the immune system and inflammation. Associations have been found with increased inflammatory parameters, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. In this article, studies concerning these clinically relevant GR variants are discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Exons / genetics
  • Glucocorticoids / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Polymorphism, Restriction Fragment Length
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / genetics*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid