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      Glucocorticoids and Inflammation Revisited: The State of the Art

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          Glucocorticoids have been used in the treatment of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases and to prevent graft rejection for over 50 years. These hormones exert their effects through cytoplasmic, heat shock protein-bound glucocorticoid receptors that translocate into the nucleus, where they regulate the transcriptional activity of responsive genes by binding to specific promoter DNA sequences (transactivation) or by interacting with transcription factors (transrepression). By interacting with different signaling pathways, newly characterized nuclear receptor coregulators enhance or diminish the actions of glucocorticoids, thus explaining the gene-, cell-, tissue- and context-dependent actions of glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids modulate genes involved in the priming of the innate immune response, while their actions on the adaptive immune response are to suppress cellular [T helper (Th)1-directed] immunity and promote humoral (Th2-directed) immunity and tolerance. The past decade has produced new insights into the mechanisms of glucocorticoid sensitivity and resistance of inflammatory, autoimmune and allergic diseases. Both the quality and severity of the inflammatory stimulus, as well as the genetics and constitution of the patient, play key roles in the glucocorticoid sensitivity, dependency and resistance of these diseases. Although glucocorticoids increase susceptibility to opportunistic infections, they are also highly beneficial in the presence of serious systemic inflammation, such as that observed in septic shock and acute respiratory distress syndrome, when administered in a sustained fashion throughout the course of the disease. Glucocorticoids produce their cardiovascular, metabolic and antigrowth side effects through molecular mechanisms distinct from those involved in immunomodulation. Fortunately, the first generation of tissue- and immune- versus cardiovascular/metabolic effect-selective glucocorticoids is available for study and further improvement. ‘Designer’ glucocorticoids promise to be a great new advance in the therapy of inflammatory diseases.

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          Most cited references 19

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          In Vitro Generation of Interleukin 10–producing Regulatory CD4+ T Cells Is Induced by Immunosuppressive Drugs and Inhibited by T Helper Type 1 (Th1)– and Th2-inducing Cytokines

          We show that a combination of the immunosuppressive drugs, vitamin D3 and Dexamethasone, induced human and mouse naive CD4+ T cells to differentiate in vitro into regulatory T cells. In contrast to the previously described in vitro derived CD4+ T cells, these cells produced only interleukin (IL)-10, but no IL-5 and interferon (IFN)-γ, and furthermore retained strong proliferative capacity. The development of these IL-10–producing cells was enhanced by neutralization of the T helper type 1 (Th1)- and Th2–inducing cytokines IL-4, IL-12, and IFN-γ. These immunosuppressive drugs also induced the development of IL-10–producing T cells in the absence of antigen-presenting cells, with IL-10 acting as a positive autocrine factor for these T cells. Furthermore, nuclear factor (NF)-κB and activator protein (AP)-1 activities were inhibited in the IL-10–producing cells described here as well as key transcription factors involved in Th1 and Th2 subset differentiation. The regulatory function of these in vitro generated IL-10–producing T cells was demonstrated by their ability to prevent central nervous system inflammation, when targeted to the site of inflammation, and this function was shown to be IL-10 dependent. Generating homogeneous populations of IL-10–producing T cells in vitro will thus facilitate the use of regulatory T cells in immunotherapy.
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            Reversal of late septic shock with supraphysiologic doses of hydrocortisone.

            Preliminary studies have suggested that low doses of corticosteroids might rapidly improve hemodynamics in late septic shock treated with catecholamines. We examined the effect of hydrocortisone on shock reversal, hemodynamics, and survival in this particular setting. Prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Two intensive care units of a University hospital. Forty-one patients with septic shock requiring catecholamine for >48 hrs. Patients were randomly assigned either hydrocortisone (100 mg i.v. three times daily for 5 days) or matching placebo. Reversal of shock was defined by a stable systolic arterial pressure (>90 mm Hg) for > or =24 hrs without catecholamine or fluid infusion. Of the 22 hydrocortisone-treated patients and 19 placebo-treated patients, 15 (68%) and 4 (21%) achieved 7-day shock reversal, respectively, a difference of 47% (95% confidence interval 17% to 77%; p = .007). Serial invasive hemodynamic measurements for 5 days did not show significant differences between both groups. At 28-day follow-up, reversal of shock was higher in the hydrocortisone group (p = .005). Crude 28-day mortality was 7 (32%) of 22 treated patients and 12 (63%) of 19 placebo patients, a difference of 31% (95% confidence interval 1% to 61%; p = .091). Shock reversal within 7 days after the onset of corticosteroid therapy was a very strong predictor of survival. There were no significant differences in outcome in responders and nonresponders to a short corticotropin test. The respective rates of gastrointestinal bleeding and secondary infections did not differ between both groups. Administration of modest doses of hydrocortisone in the setting of pressor-dependent septic shock for a mean of >96 hrs resulted in a significant improvement in hemodynamics and a beneficial effect on survival. These beneficial effects do not appear related to adrenocortical insufficiency.
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              Glucocorticoids in T cell development and function*.

              Glucocorticoids are small lipophilic compounds that mediate their many biological effects by binding an intracellular receptor (GR) that, in turn, translocates to the nucleus and directly or indirectly regulates gene transcription. Perhaps the most recognized biologic effect of glucocorticoids on peripheral T cells is immunosuppression, which is due to inhibition of expression of a wide variety of activationinduced gene products. Glucocorticoids have also been implicated in Th lineage development (favoring the generation of Th2 cells) and, by virtue of their downregulation of fasL expression, the inhibition of activation-induced T cell apoptosis. Glucocorticoids are also potent inducers of apoptosis, and even glucocorticoid concentrations achieved during a stress response can cause the death of CD4(+)CD8(+ )thymocytes. Perhaps surprisingly, thymic epithelial cells produce glucocorticoids, and based upon in vitro and in vivo studies of T cell development it has been proposed that these locally produced glucocorticoids participate in antigen-specific thymocyte development by inhibiting activation-induced gene transcription and thus increasing the TCR signaling thresholds required to promote positive and negative selection. It is anticipated that studies in animals with tissue-specific GR-deficiency will further elucide how glucocorticoids affect T cell development and function.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                May 2003
                16 May 2003
                : 10
                : 5
                : 247-260
                aPediatric and Reproductive Endocrinology Branch, NICHD, NIH, Bethesda, Md., USA; bGastroenterology-Internal Medicine Department, Erasme University Hospital, Brussels, Belgium; cINSERM 255, Clinical and Cellular Immunology, Curie Institute, Paris, France; dMemphis Lung Research Program, Department of Medicine, Divisions of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tenn., USA
                69969 Neuroimmunomodulation 2002–03;10:247–260
                © 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 5, Tables: 3, References: 74, Pages: 14


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