Some of the most potent antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive agents are synthetic glucocorticoids. However, major side effects severely limit their therapeutic use. The development of improved glucocorticoid-based drugs will require the separation of beneficial from deleterious effects. One possibility toward this goal is to try to dissociate two main activities of glucocorticoids, i.e. transactivation and transrepression. Screening of a library of compounds using transactivation and AP-1 transrepression models in transiently transfected cells identified dissociated glucocorticoids, which exert strong AP-1 inhibition but little or no transactivation. Importantly, despite high ligand binding affinity, the prototypic dissociated compound, RU24858, acted as a weak agonist and did not efficiently antagonize dexamethasone-induced transcription in transfected cells. Similar results were obtained in hepatic HTC cells for the transactivation of the endogenous tyrosine amino transferase gene (TAT), which encodes one of the enzymes involved in the glucocorticoid-dependent stimulation of neoglucogenesis. To investigate whether dissociated glucocorticoids retained the antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive potential of classic glucocorticoids, several in vitro and in vivo models were used. Indeed, secretion of the proinflammatory lymphokine interleukin-1beta was severely inhibited by dissociated glucocorticoids in human monocytic THP 1 cells. Moreover, in two in vivo models, these compounds exerted an antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive activity as potent as that of the classic glucocorticoid prednisolone. These results may lead to an improvement of antiinflammatory and immunosuppressive therapies and provide a novel concept for drug discovery.