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Metabolic transformation of glucocorticoid hormones constitutes a determinant of their cell-specific effects. The most important reaction for this class of steroids is the reversible C11 keto/beta-hydroxyl conversion between receptor-binding 11beta-OH steroids and the nonbinding 11-oxo compounds, carried out by 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (11beta-HSDs). In this study, we determined the role of glucocorticoid conversion by 11beta-HSD in pancreatic islets and its function in the regulation of insulin release. Pancreatic islets isolated from ob/ob mice display type 1 11beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase activity, i.e. in intact cells the reductive reaction prevails, leading from dehydrocorticosterone to corticosterone. Expression of type 1 11beta-HSD mRNA was detected by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction in islets isolated from ob/ob mice and also from human tissue. Incubation of beta-cells in the presence of 11-dehydrocorticosterone leads to a dose-dependent inhibition of insulin release, indicating cellular activation of 11-dehydrocorticosterone to the receptor ligand, further confirmed by reporter gene assays. Inhibition of 11beta-HSD activity by carbenoxolone reverses inhibition of insulin release. The presence of 11beta-HSD in islets supports the concept that reactivation of inert circulating hormone precursors in a cell-specific manner plays a major role in glucocorticoid physiology in rodents and man.

Original publication




Journal article


J biol chem

Publication Date





34841 - 34844


11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases, Animals, Anti-Ulcer Agents, Carbenoxolone, Corticosterone, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Dose-Response Relationship, Drug, Genes, Reporter, Glucocorticoids, Glucose, Humans, Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases, Insulin, Islets of Langerhans, Isoenzymes, Kinetics, Ligands, Mice, Mice, Knockout, Mice, Mutant Strains, Pancreas, RNA, Messenger, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Tissue Distribution, Transcription, Genetic