Indexed on: 14 Nov '19Published on: 18 May '19Published in: Diabetologia
Chronic glucocorticoid therapy causes insulin resistance, dyslipidaemia, abnormal fat accumulation, loss of muscle mass and osteoporosis. Here we describe a hitherto unknown sexual dimorphism in the metabolic response to chronic glucocorticoid exposure in mice. This led us to investigate whether glucocorticoid-induced insulin resistance and obesity were dependent on sex hormones. Male and female CD1 mice were treated for 4 weeks with supraphysiological doses (~250 μg/day) of corticosterone, the main glucocorticoid in rodents, or equivalent volume of vehicle (drinking water without corticosterone). To investigate the effects of sex hormones, a separate group of mice were either orchidectomised or ovariectomised prior to corticosterone treatment, with or without dihydrotestosterone replacement. Body composition was determined before and after corticosterone treatment, and insulin tolerance was assessed after 7 and 28 days of treatment. Adipocyte morphology was assessed in white and brown adipose tissues by immunohistochemistry, and fasting serum concentrations of NEFA, triacylglycerols, total cholesterol and free glycerol were measured using colorimetric assays. Obesity- and diabetes-related hormones were measured using multiplex assays, and RNA and protein expression in adipose tissues were measured by RT-PCR and immunoblotting, respectively. Chronic corticosterone treatment led to insulin resistance, fasting hyperinsulinaemia, increased adiposity and dyslipidaemia in male, but not female mice. In males, orchidectomy improved baseline insulin sensitivity and attenuated corticosterone-induced insulin resistance, but did not prevent fat accumulation. In androgen-deficient mice (orchidectomised males, and intact and ovariectomised females) treated with dihydrotestosterone, corticosterone treatment led to insulin resistance and dyslipidaemia. In brown adipose tissue, androgens were required for corticosterone-induced intracellular lipid accumulation ('whitening'), and dihydrotestosterone specifically exacerbated corticosterone-induced accumulation of white adipose tissue by increasing adipocyte hypertrophy. Androgens also suppressed circulating adiponectin concentrations, but corticosterone-induced insulin resistance did not involve additional suppression of adiponectin levels. In white adipose tissue, androgens were required for induction of the glucocorticoid target gene Gilz (also known as Tsc22d3) by corticosterone. In mice, androgens potentiate the development of insulin resistance, fat accumulation and brown adipose tissue whitening following chronic glucocorticoid treatment.