Glucocorticoids influence a wide range of metabolic processes in the human body, and excessive glucocorticoid exposure is known to contribute to the development of metabolic disease. We evaluated the utility of the novel glucocorticoid receptor (GR) antagonist CORT125281 for its potential to overcome adiposity, glucose intolerance, and dyslipidemia and compared this head-to-head with the classic GR antagonist RU486 (mifepristone). We show that, although RU486 displays cross-reactivity to the progesterone and androgen receptor, CORT125281 selectively inhibits GR transcriptional activity. In a mouse model for diet-induced obesity, rhythmicity of circulating corticosterone levels was disturbed. CORT125281 restored this disturbed rhythmicity, in contrast to RU486, which further inhibited endogenous corticosterone levels and suppressed adrenal weight. Both CORT125281 and RU486 reduced body weight gain and fat mass. In addition, CORT125281, but not RU486, lowered plasma levels of triglycerides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids and strongly stimulated triglyceride-derived fatty acid uptake by brown adipose tissue depots. In combination with reduced lipid content in brown adipocytes, this indicates that CORT125281 enhances metabolic activity of brown adipose tissue depots. CORT125281 was also found to increase liver lipid accumulation. Taken together, CORT125281 displayed a wide range of beneficial metabolic activities that are in part distinct from RU486, but clinical utility may be limited due to liver lipid accumulation. This warrants further evaluation of GR antagonists or selective modulators that are not accompanied by liver lipid accumulation while preserving their beneficial metabolic activities.
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