Metabolic correlations of glucocorticoids and polyamines in inflammation and apoptosis

Amino Acids. 2010 Jun;39(1):29-43. doi: 10.1007/s00726-010-0489-3. Epub 2010 Feb 19.


Glucocorticoid hormones (GC) are essential in all aspects of human health and disease. Their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties are reasons for therapeutic application in several diseases. GC suppress immune activation and uncontrolled overproduction and release of cytokines. GC inhibit the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Investigation of GC's mechanism of action, suggested that polyamines (PA) may act as mediators or messengers of their effects. Beside glucocorticoids, spermine (Spm) is one of endogenous inhibitors of cytokine production. There are many similarities in the metabolic actions of GC and PA. The major mechanism of GC effects involves the regulation of gene expression. PA are essential for maintaining higher order organization of chromatin in vivo. Spermidine and Spm stabilize chromatin and nuclear enzymes, due to their ability to form complexes with negatively charged groups on DNA, RNA and proteins. Also, there is an increasing body of evidence that GC and PA change the chromatin structure especially through acetylation and deacetylation of histones. GC display potent immunomodulatory activities, including the ability to induce T and B lymphocyte apoptosis, mediated via production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the mitochondrial pathway. The by-products of PA catabolic pathways (hydrogen peroxide, amino aldehydes, acrolein) produce ROS, well-known cytotoxic agents involved in programmed cell death (PCD) or apoptosis. This review is an attempt in the better understanding of relation between GC and PA, naturally occurring compounds of all eukaryotic cells, anti-inflammatory and apoptotic agents in physiological and pathological conditions connected to oxidative stress or PCD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Glucocorticoids / immunology
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Polyamines / immunology
  • Polyamines / metabolism*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Polyamines