Role of glucocorticoids and the glucocorticoid receptor in metabolism: insights from genetic manipulations

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2010 Oct;122(1-3):10-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2010.02.010. Epub 2010 Feb 17.


Since the discovery of the beneficial effects of adrenocortical extracts for treating adrenal insufficiency more than 80 years ago, glucocorticoids and their cognate, intracellular receptor, the glucocorticoid receptor have been characterized as critical checkpoints in the delicate hormonal control of energy homeostasis in mammals. Whereas physiological levels of glucocorticoids are required for proper metabolic control, aberrant glucocorticoid action has been linked to a variety of pandemic metabolic diseases, such as type II diabetes and obesity. Based on its importance for human health, studies of the molecular mechanisms of within the glucocorticoid signaling axis have become a major focus in biomedical research. In particular, the understanding of tissue-specific functions of the glucocorticoid receptor pathway has been proven to be of substantial value for the development of novel therapies in the treatment of chronic metabolic disorders. Therefore, this review focuses on the consequences of endogenous and experimental modulation of glucocorticoid receptor expression for metabolic homeostasis and dysregulation, particularly emphasizing tissue-specific contributions of the glucocorticoid pathway to the control of energy metabolism.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Metabolic Diseases / genetics
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid