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Disruption of Glucocorticoid- and Mineralocorticoid Receptor-Mediated Responses by Environmental Chemicals

Applicant Odermatt Alexander
Number 66575
Funding scheme NRP 50 Endocrine Disruptors
Research institution Department for BioMedical Research Universität Bern
Institution of higher education University of Berne - BE
Main discipline Environmental Research
Start/End 01.01.2002 - 31.12.2006
Approved amount 554'984.00
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Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Activation of Glucocorticoid- and Mineralocorticoid receptors by environmental chemicals.
Activation of hormonal receptors by environmental chemicals.

The inappropriate activation of glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors can lead to adverse metabolic effects. Here, the disruption caused by environmental chemicals to these receptors is under investigation.

Cumulative exposure to environmental chemicals poses serious health problems. Assessment of the risk associated with such chemicals has so far focused on their ability to interfere with the action of sex hormones such as estrogens and androgens. Whether disturbance of other hormones, including the glucocorticoid cortisol and the mineralocorticoid aldosterone, occurs remains largely unknown.
The inappropriate action of cortisol, acting on glucocortoid receptors, induces an array of metabolic effects including osteoporosis, weight gain, diabetes and cataracts, whereas the inappropriate action of the hormone aldosterone, acting on mineralocorticoid receptors, causes renal salt retention with hypertension, hypokalaemia and heart failure.

This project intends to investigate whether environmental chemicals disrupt the action of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone.

We identified organotin and dithiocarbamate compounds as potent inhibitors of a pre-receptor enzyme (11ß-HSD2) which converts biologically active cortisol to inactive cortisone. Enhanced cortisol concentrations cause sodium retention and hypertension. The same compounds block the activation of both mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptors. Thus, these compounds cause severely disturbed responses to both cortisol and aldosterone.
The enzyme 11ß-HSD1 converts cortisone to cortisol. Enhanced cortisol activity is associated with an increased risk for the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus. 11ß-HSD1 is therefore considered a promising target for the therapeutic treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus. We identified flavanone as a selective inhibitor of 11ß-HSD1 and are now testing it for beneficial effects in diabetic animal models.
7-ketocholesterol is most abundant in processed food. 7-ketocholesterol activates the mineralocorticoid receptor, which may contribute to sodium retention and hypertension or to the development of cardiac fibrosis. We found that 11ß-HSD1 efficiently metabolizes 7-ketocholesterol in the liver, preventing accumulation.
Further studies are required to understand the molecular mechanisms and to assess the impact of environmental compounds on animal and human health.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
124912 The Regulation of Glucocorticoid and Mineralocorticoid Hormone Action by 11beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases 01.05.2009 Project funding (Div. I-III)