Glucocorticoid receptors: finding the middle ground

J Clin Invest. 2017 Apr 3;127(4):1136-1145. doi: 10.1172/JCI88886. Epub 2017 Mar 20.


Glucocorticoids (GCs; referred to clinically as corticosteroids) are steroid hormones with potent anti-inflammatory and immune modulatory profiles. Depending on the context, these hormones can also mediate pro-inflammatory activities, thereby serving as primers of the immune system. Their target receptor, the GC receptor (GR), is a multi-tasking transcription factor, changing its role and function depending on cellular and organismal needs. To get a clearer idea of how to improve the safety profile of GCs, recent studies have investigated the complex mechanisms underlying GR functions. One of the key findings includes both pro- and anti-inflammatory roles of GR, and a future challenge will be to understand how such paradoxical findings can be reconciled and how GR ultimately shifts the balance to a net anti-inflammatory profile. As such, there is consensus that GR deserves a second life as a drug target, with either refined classic GCs or a novel generation of nonsteroidal GR-targeting molecules, to meet the increasing clinical needs of today to treat inflammation and cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Glucocorticoids / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Inflammation / therapy
  • Neoplasm Proteins / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / immunology*


  • Analgesics
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid