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Research Article

Cortisol Release From Adipose Tissue by 11β-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1 in Humans


OBJECTIVE—11β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) regenerates cortisol from cortisone. 11β-HSD1 mRNA and activity are increased in vitro in subcutaneous adipose tissue from obese patients. Inhibition of 11β-HSD1 is a promising therapeutic approach in type 2 diabetes. However, release of cortisol by 11β-HSD1 from adipose tissue and its effect on portal vein cortisol concentrations have not been quantified in vivo.RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS—Six healthy men underwent 9,11,12,12-[2H]4-cortisol infusions with simultaneous sampling of arterialized and superficial epigastric vein blood sampling. Four men with stable chronic liver disease and a transjugular intrahepatic porto-systemic shunt in situ underwent tracer infusion with simultaneous sampling from the portal vein, hepatic vein, and an arterialized peripheral vein.RESULTS—Significant cortisol and 9,12,12-[2H]3-cortisol release were observed from subcutaneous adipose tissue (15.0 [95% CI 0.4–29.5] and 8.7 [0.2–17.2] pmol · min−1 · 100 g−1 adipose tissue, respectively). Splanchnic release of cortisol and 9,12,12-[2H]3-cortisol (13.5 [3.6–23.5] and 8.0 [2.6–13.5] nmol/min, respectively) was accounted for entirely by the liver; release of cortisol from visceral tissues into portal vein was not detected.CONCLUSIONS—Cortisol is released from subcutaneous adipose tissue by 11β-HSD1 in humans, and increased enzyme expression in obesity is likely to increase local glucocorticoid signaling and contribute to whole-body cortisol regeneration. However, visceral adipose 11β-HSD1 activity is insufficient to increase portal vein cortisol concentrations and hence to influence intrahepatic glucocorticoid signaling.