The role of microRNAs in glucocorticoid action

J Biol Chem. 2018 Feb 9;293(6):1865-1874. doi: 10.1074/jbc.R117.000366. Epub 2018 Jan 4.


Glucocorticoids (GCs) are steroids with profound anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory activities. Synthetic GCs are widely used for managing chronic inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, as immunosuppressants in transplantation, and as anti-tumor agents in certain hematological cancers. However, prolonged GC exposure can cause adverse effects. A detailed understanding of GCs' mechanisms of action may enable harnessing of their desirable actions while minimizing harmful effects. Here, we review the impact on the GC biology of microRNAs, small non-coding RNAs that post-transcriptionally regulate gene expression. Emerging evidence indicates that microRNAs modulate GC production by the adrenal glands and the cells' responses to GCs. Furthermore, GCs influence cell proliferation, survival, and function at least in part by regulating microRNA expression. We propose that the beneficial effects of GCs may be enhanced through combination with reagents targeting specific microRNAs.

Keywords: apoptosis; epigenetics; glucocorticoid; glucocorticoid receptor; inflammation; microRNA (miRNA).

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Glucocorticoids / biosynthesis
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • MicroRNAs / genetics
  • MicroRNAs / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / genetics
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism


  • Glucocorticoids
  • MicroRNAs
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid