Tissue expression of steroid hormone receptors is associated with differential immune responsiveness Academic Article uri icon


  • Glucocorticoids have been used as treatments against a number of diseases, especially autoimmune/inflammatory conditions in which the immune system is overactive. These treatments have varying degrees of responsiveness among individuals and in different tissues (including brain); therefore, it is important to determine what could account for these differences. In this study, we evaluated expression of stress hormone receptors in immune cells from lymphoid and non-lymphoid tissues (including brain) as a possible explanation. We analyzed leukocytes (CD45(+)) in kidney, liver, spleen, and thymus tissues from healthy mice for expression of the receptor for stress hormone (glucocorticoid-GR) as well as other steroid hormones (androgen-AR, progesterone-PR) and found that all tissues expressed these steroid hormone receptors but with varying patterns. To determine whether tissue-specific differences were related to immune cell composition, we examined steroid hormone receptor expression in T lymphocytes from each of these tissues and found similar patterns of expression in these cells regardless of tissue source. Because glucocorticoids can also impact brain function, we further examined expression of the stress hormone receptor in brain tissue and found GR expressed in immune cells at this site. In order to investigate the potential impact in an area of neuropathology, we utilized a mouse model of West Nile Virus (WNV). We observed pathological changes in brains of WNV-infected animals and T lymphocytes in the areas of inflammation; however, these cells did not express GR. These data indicate that tissue-specific differences in steroid hormone receptor expression by immune cells could determine responsiveness to steroid hormone treatment.

author list (cited authors)

  • Butts, C. L., Jones, Y. L., Lim, J. K., Salter, C. E., Belyavskaya, E., & Sternberg, E. M.

citation count

  • 8

publication date

  • November 2010