The FASEB Journal, Vol 5, 3047-3054, Copyright © 1991 by The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Corticosteroids, receptors, and the organ-specific functions of 11 beta- hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase
Population Council, Center for Biomedical Research, New York, New York 10021.
Reversible oxidation of the biologically active corticosteroids to the inactive 11-dehydrocorticosteroids is catalyzed by 11 beta- hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11 beta HSD). The properties of the enzyme based on clinical observations of individuals with defective 11 beta HSD expression, and laboratory studies of the properties and behavior of the enzyme, are consistent with separate 11 beta- dehydrogenase and 11-oxoreductase species. However, recombinant enzyme expressed in mammalian cells retain both activities, leading to the conclusion that 11 beta HSD is a unique, reversible enzyme. 11 beta HSD is present in most tissues, but its specific functions in most tissues are unknown. How the enzyme may mediate corticosteroid-receptor interaction is illustrated by studies using kidney, testis, and brain. In kidney, 11 beta HSD prevents glucocorticoids from competing inappropriately with aldosterone for mineralocorticoid receptor (MR). Lack of enzyme in humans due to natural causes or inhibition by pharmacological agents results in maximum activation of MR by glucocorticoids, leading to the clinical symptoms of apparent mineralocorticoid excess. Leydig cells of the testes synthesize testosterone, a process that is suppressed by events initiated by the binding of corticosteroid to glucocorticoid receptors (GR).
Depletion of active steroid mediated by 11 beta HSD may initiate testosterone production at puberty and affect testosterone production during adult life, as for example during periods of stress. The heterogeneous distribution of MR and GR in the brain reflects the specific regional effects of glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids on neural function. Colocalization of 11 beta HSD and corticosteroid receptors in brain may be important in controlling the specificity of corticosteroid interaction with GR and MR. The patterns of 11 beta HSD-steroid- receptor interaction illustrated with these three tissues may provide models applicable to other tissues in which corticosteroid receptors and 11 beta HSD coexist.