Membrane glucocorticoid receptors (mGCR) are expressed in normal human peripheral blood monunuclear cells and up-regulated after in vitro stimulation and in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Bartholome B, Spies CM, Gaber T, Schuchmann S, Berki T, Kunkel D, Bienert M, Radbruch A, Burmester G-R, Lauster R, Scheffold A and Buttgereit F
Source: FASEB J
Publication Date: (2004)
Issue: 18(1): 70-80
Research Area:
Immunotherapy / Hematology
Cells used in publication:
Species: hamster
Tissue Origin: ovarian
Nucleofector® I/II/2b
Cells of the Chinese hamster ovary cell line CHO-K1 were nucleofected with a plasmid coding for a GFP fusion of human cytosolic GCR-alpha, raising the level of cGCR without detectable alteration of the mGCR occurrence.
Glucocorticoids mediate their therapeutic actions mostly by genomic effects via cytosolic receptors, but some effects are too rapid to be mediated by changes at the genomic level. The detailed mechanisms of these nongenomic actions are still unclear. Membrane-bound glucocorticoid receptors (mGCR) have been suggested to be involved, although their physiological existence in humans so far is hypothetical. For the first time we demonstrate the existence of mGCR on monocytes and B cells obtained from healthy blood donors using high-sensitivity immunofluorescent staining. Immunostimulation with lipopolysaccharide increases the percentage of mGCR-positive monocytes, which can be prevented by inhibiting the secretory pathway. Overexpression of the human glucocorticoid receptor alpha alone is not sufficient to enhance mGCR expression. These in vitro findings are consistent with our clinical observation that in patients with rheumatoid arthritis the frequency of mGCR positive monocytes is increased and positively correlated with disease activity. We conclude that mGCR are 1) indeed physiologically present in healthy blood donors, but remained unidentified by conventional techniques due to their small number per cell and 2) actively up-regulated and transported through the cell after immunostimulation. These receptors may reflect a feedback mechanism of the organism upon immunostimulation and/or play a role in pathogenesis.