Changes in corticosteroid sensitivity of peripheral blood lymphocytes after strenuous exercise in humans

Publication Type:

Journal Article


J Clin Endocrinol Metab, Volume 81, Number 1, p.228-235 (1996)

DOI Name (links to online publication)



ACTH; Adrenocorticotropic Hormone; Adult; biosynthesis; blood; Dexamethasone; Disease; Dose-Response Relationship; Drug; drug effects; Exercise; glucocorticoid; Glucocorticoids; Health; Human; Humans; Hydrocortisone; In Vitro; Interleukin-6; Lipopolysaccha


Although plasma corticosteroid concentrations can be measured accurately, the biological effect on the target tissue is uncertain. The availability of an accurate measure of corticosteroid sensitivity would potentially clarify the putative roles of endogenous glucocorticoids in illnesses such as inflammatory disease and obesity and allow evaluation of an additional regulatory level of glucocorticoid action. To measure corticosteroid sensitivity, we developed an assay based on the inhibition by dexamethasone (Dex) of lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced Interleukin-6 (IL-6) production and release in whole unseparated blood in vitro. LPS induced a dose-dependent increase in IL-6 concentrations up to 34 +/- 6.6 ng/mL, reaching plateau levels after 8 h, whereas Dex dose dependently inhibited LPS-induced IL-6 production. Involvement of the glucocorticoid receptor in this response was supported by abrogation of Dex (10(-7) mol/L) inhibition of IL-6 production by the glucocorticoid receptor antagonist RU 38486. To determine whether corticosteroid sensitivity is a dynamic phenomenon, we subjected healthy males to a graded quantifiable exercise associated with increases in plasma ACTH and cortisol. Before exercise, 3 x 10(-8) mol/L Dex inhibited LPS-induced IL-6 production in vitro; after exercise, 3 x 10(-8) and 10(-7) mol/L Dex were unable to inhibit IL-6 production. We conclude that Dex suppression of LPS-induced IL-6 production is an effective means of determining corticosteroid sensitivity, and that corticosteroid sensitivity in human subjects is a dynamic, rather than a static, phenomenon