Glucocorticoid receptors are differentially expressed in the cells and tissues of the immune system

Cell Immunol. 1998 May 25;186(1):45-54. doi: 10.1006/cimm.1998.1293.


Cytosolic glucocorticoid receptor (GR) binding studies on immune tissues demonstrate that the thymus exhibits three to four times higher levels of GR protein than the spleen. High levels of GR are consistent with the exquisite sensitivity of the thymus to glucocorticoid exposure. Nevertheless, whole cell binding studies reveal similar levels of GR in immature thymic T lymphocytes and more mature, splenic T lymphocytes. Moreover, whole cell binding techniques indicate that neutrophils (which represent roughly 30% of splenic leukocytes) exhibit higher GR than both T and B lymphocytes, further contradicting results from cytosolic binding studies. To address these inconsistencies, GR protein was assessed in immune cells and tissues using cytosolic radioligand binding. Western blot analysis, and immunocytochemistry. Consistent with previous cytosolic receptor binding studies on immune tissue homogenates, thymic T cells were found to have higher levels of GR than T cells isolated from the spleen. In addition, neutrophils were found to have fewer GR than lymphocytes and monocytes. These results indicate a meaningful relationship between receptor expression and known sensitivity to glucocorticoids.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism*
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Male
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism*
  • Spleen / cytology
  • Spleen / metabolism*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Thymus Gland / cytology
  • Thymus Gland / metabolism*


  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid