Glucocorticoid receptor number and cortisol excretion in mood, anxiety, and psychotic disorders

Biol Psychiatry. 1993 Jul 1-15;34(1-2):18-25. doi: 10.1016/0006-3223(93)90252-9.


In the present study, we measured cytosolic lymphocyte glucocorticoid receptor and 24-hour urinary cortisol excretion in patients with major depressive disorder, bipolar mania, posttraumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and schizophrenia. Patients with major depression had the smallest, and posttraumatic stress disordered patients the largest, mean number of glucocorticoid receptors per cell compared to patients in the other groups. Bipolar manic and panic patients did not differ from each other in regard to the number of lymphocyte glucocorticoid receptors. Bipolar manic and panic patients did have significantly more glucocorticoid receptors/cell than schizophrenic patients. The mean 24-hour urinary cortisol excretion was significantly higher in patients with major depression and bipolar mania than in those in the other diagnostic groups. Lymphocyte glucocorticoid receptor number and cortisol excretion tended to be inversely related, when the entire sample was considered as a whole, but this effect did not reach statistical significance. It is concluded that lymphocyte glucocorticoid receptors may be modulated by multiple influences, not just ambient cortisol levels. These preliminary data suggest that the assessment of lymphocyte glucocorticoid receptor number in tandem with cortisol levels may provide a more meaningful estimate of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity than is achieved using cortisol alone.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bipolar Disorder / blood*
  • Bipolar Disorder / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Depressive Disorder / blood*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Hydrocortisone / urine
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / blood*
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mood Disorders / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotic Disorders / blood*
  • Psychotic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Psychotic Disorders / metabolism
  • Radioimmunoassay
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism*
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / blood*
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / diagnosis
  • Schizophrenia, Paranoid / metabolism


  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Hydrocortisone