Glucocorticoids via the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) have effects on a variety of cell types, eliciting important physiological responses via changes in gene expression and signaling. Although decades of research have illuminated the mechanism of how this important steroid receptor controls gene expression using in vitro and cell culture-based approaches, how GR responds to changes in external signals in vivo under normal and pathological conditions remains elusive. The goal of this review is to highlight recent work on GR action in fat cells and liver to affect metabolism in vivo and the role GR ligands and receptor phosphorylation play in calibrating signaling outputs by GR in the brain in health and disease. We also suggest that both the brain and fat tissue communicate to affect physiology and behavior and that understanding this "brain-fat axis" will enable a more complete understanding of metabolic diseases and inform new ways to target them.
Keywords: glucocorticoid receptor; glucocorticoid receptor ligands; glucocorticoid receptor phosphorylation; glucocorticoid receptors in the brain; glucocorticoids.