Selective Glucocorticoid Receptor Modulation Prevents and Reverses Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease in Male Mice

Endocrinology. 2018 Dec 1;159(12):3925-3936. doi: 10.1210/en.2018-00671.


Medication for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is an unmet need. Glucocorticoid (GC) stress hormones drive fat metabolism in the liver, but both full blockade and full stimulation of GC signaling aggravate NAFLD pathology. We investigated the efficacy of selective glucocorticoid receptor (GR) modulator CORT118335, which recapitulates only a subset of GC actions, in reducing liver lipid accumulation in mice. Male C57BL/6J mice received a low-fat diet or high-fat diet mixed with vehicle or CORT118335. Livers were analyzed histologically and for genome-wide mRNA expression. Functionally, hepatic long-chain fatty acid (LCFA) composition was determined by gas chromatography. We determined very-low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) production by treatment with a lipoprotein lipase inhibitor after which blood was collected to isolate radiolabeled VLDL particles and apoB proteins. CORT118335 strongly prevented and reversed hepatic lipid accumulation. Liver transcriptome analysis showed increased expression of GR target genes involved in VLDL production. Accordingly, CORT118335 led to increased lipidation of VLDL particles, mimicking physiological GC action. Independent pathway analysis revealed that CORT118335 lacked induction of GC-responsive genes involved in cholesterol synthesis and LCFA uptake, which was indeed reflected in unaltered hepatic LCFA uptake in vivo. Our data thus reveal that the robust hepatic lipid-lowering effect of CORT118335 is due to a unique combination of GR-dependent stimulation of lipid (VLDL) efflux from the liver, with a lack of stimulation of GR-dependent hepatic fatty acid uptake. Our findings firmly demonstrate the potential use of CORT118335 in the treatment of NAFLD and underscore the potential of selective GR modulation in metabolic disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Animals
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Lipogenesis / drug effects
  • Lipoproteins, VLDL / blood
  • Liver / chemistry
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Liver / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / blood
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / drug therapy*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / prevention & control*
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Substrate Specificity
  • Thymine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Thymine / pharmacology
  • Thymine / therapeutic use


  • CORT118335
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Lipoproteins, VLDL
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Thymine
  • Corticosterone