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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Increased vasoconstrictor sensitivity to glucocorticoids in essential hypertension.

Glucocorticoids raise blood pressure but were thought not to play a pathophysiological role in essential hypertension when it was demonstrated that cortisol secretion rates and circulating concentrations are normal in this disease. However, recent observations suggest that increased tissue sensitivity to cortisol, mediated by either abnormal glucocorticoid receptors or impaired inactivation of cortisol by 11 beta-dehydrogenase, may allow cortisol to raise blood pressure despite normal circulating concentrations. We studied 11 patients with essential hypertension and 11 matched normotensive control subjects. Dermal vasoconstriction after topical application of both cortisol (16 +/- 4 versus 32 +/- 5 U, control subjects versus hypertensive patients; P < .02) and beclomethasone dipropionate (75 +/- 10 versus 100 +/- 7 U; P < .05) was increased in the hypertensive patients. Hypothalamic-pituitary glucocorticoid receptor sensitivity was normal, as judged by basal cortisol secretion rates and suppression of plasma cortisol during sequential overnight dexamethasone suppression tests. 11 beta-Dehydrogenase activity was impaired in essential hypertension, as judged by prolonged half-lives of [11 alpha-3H]cortisol (44 +/- 4 versus 58 +/- 4 minutes, control subjects versus hypertensive patients; P < .02). However, this did not correlate with the dermal vasoconstrictor response. We conclude that vasoconstrictor sensitivity to glucocorticoids is increased in essential hypertension and that this may initiate and/or sustain the increased peripheral vascular resistance that characterizes this disease. The mechanism of increased sensitivity remains uncertain, but it will be important to establish whether it relates to genetic abnormalities of the glucocorticoid receptor that have been observed in animal models and young individuals who are predisposed to essential hypertension.[1]


  1. Increased vasoconstrictor sensitivity to glucocorticoids in essential hypertension. Walker, B.R., Best, R., Shackleton, C.H., Padfield, P.L., Edwards, C.R. Hypertension (1996) [Pubmed]
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