Multiple effects of a short-term dexamethasone treatment in human skeletal muscle and adipose tissue

Nathalie Viguerie1,2, Flora Picard1,2, Gabby Hul3, Balbine Roussel1,2, Pierre Barbe1,2, Jason S. Iacovoni2, Carine Valle1,2, Dominique Langin1,2,4, and Wim H. M. Saris3
1. Inserm, UMR1048, Obesity Research Laboratory, Institut des Maladies Métaboliques et Cardiovasculaires
2. Univiersity of Toulouse, Universté Paul Sabatier, Biomedical Research Federative Institute of Toulouse, Toulouse, France
3. Department of Human Biology, NUTRIM School for Nutrition, Toxicology & Metabolism, Maastricht University Medical Centre, Maastricht, The Nerthelands
4. Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse, Biochemistry Laboratory, Biology Institute of Purpan, Toulouse, France  


Glucocorticoids are frequently prescribed drugs with important side-effects such as glucose intolerance and tissue remodeling. The goal was to explore the molecular basis of the response of skeletal muscle and adipose tissue during a short-term dexamethasone treatment to better understand the induction of side-effects of glucocorticoids on these metabolic tissues. Fifteen healthy male subjects were assigned to a 4-day treatment with dexamethasone at 4 mg/day. The primary outcome measures were changes in gene expression profiling of subcutaneous skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. Urinary cortisol, plasma, and metabolic biochemistry were also assessed. In both tissues the prominent observation was a response to stress and increased inflammatory responses. An upregulation of the serum amyloid A was detected in skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, and plasma, whereas circulating levels of C reactive protein, another acute phase protein, decreased along with a worsened insulin sensitivity index. As tissue-specific features, tissue remodeling was shown in skeletal muscle while the adipose tissue exhibited a decreased energy metabolism. Several limitations might be raised due to the small number of subjects investigated: a possible cross talk with the mineralocorticoid receptor, and a single time point may not identify regulations occurring during longitudinal treatment. In line with the known physiological effect of glucocorticoids the early modulation of stress response genes was observed. An unexpected feature was the upregulation of the inflammatory and immune pathways. The identification of novel impact on two glucocorticoid target tissues provides a molecular basis for the design of more specific glucocorticoids devoid of adverse effects.


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