Regulation of intra-adipose cortisol concentrations in vivo in humans
Hughes, Katherine Ann
Intra-adipose cortisol is derived from the systemic circulation via the hypothalamic-pituitaryadrenal axis (HPAA) and generated locally through conversion of inactive cortisone to cortisol by the intra-cellular enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11βHSD1). This thesis addresses the relative contributions of the HPAA and adipose tissue 11βHSD1 to the adipose tissue glucocorticoid pool and describes development and validation of a novel stable isotope tracer, 1,2 [2H]2-cortisone (d2-cortisone), to measure 11βHSD1- dehydrogenase activity in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle in vivo. In otherwise healthy females (n=6) undergoing hysterectomy for a benign indication, an intravenous infusion of d4-cortisol was administered and subcutaneous and omental adipose tissue biopsies were obtained along with concomitant peripheral venous blood, to measure the rate of exchange of cortisol between plasma and adipose tissue for comparison with rates of intra-cellular cortisol generation by 11βHSD1. Cortisol concentrations and enrichment with d4-cortisol were lower in adipose tissue than in plasma. The rate of accumulation of d4-cortisol in adipose tissue depots was ~0.5nmol/kg/h despite the infusion contributing 1.9μmol/h d4-cortisol into the circulation, and the proportion of the intra-adipose cortisol pool replaced each hour was ~10%. The contribution of 11βHSD1 to this turnover could not be quantified since very little substrate d3-cortisone accumulated in adipose during infusion. Method development for d2-cortisone included optimising LC-MS/MS conditions, confirming that d2-cortisone was a substrate for human 11βHSD1 and that no significant primary isotope effect existed. The pharmacokinetics of d2-cortisone were assessed in vivo in healthy male volunteers (n=3). The method was validated by measuring whole body cortisone production in healthy volunteers (n=3) before and after eating liquorice which resulted in a ~50% fall in cortisone production. 11βHSD1-dehydrogenase activity was measured in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle in healthy volunteers (n=6) using d2- cortisone and substantial 11β-dehydrogenase activity was present in both tissues (~1.5-fold higher 11β-dehydrogenase activity than 11β-reductase activity in adipose tissue and approximately equal 11β-reductase and 11β-dehydrogenase activity in skeletal muscle). 11βHSD1-reductase activity was also assessed using a 9,11,12,12 [2H]4-cortisol infusion (d4-cortisol). Skeletal muscle and adipose tissue displayed 11β-reductase activity. In adipose tissue this activity was of a similar magnitude to previous reports. Insulin increased whole body 11β-reductase activity, but did not switch 11βHSD1 direction in muscle or adipose tissue, indicating the predominant effect of insulin may be on hepatic 11βHSD1. Therefore, turnover of the intra-adipose tissue glucocorticoid pool is slow and it is unlikely that rapid acute fluctuations in circulating cortisol are reflected in adipose tissue, although this has not been confirmed under normal physiological conditions. Secondly, 11βHSD1 may be bidirectional in human subcutaneous adipose tissue and skeletal muscle in vivo, and insulin does not regulate the balance of activities. However, in this study blood sampling occurred from blood vessels which express 11βHSD2, and thus some of the measured dehydrogenase activity in this study may reflect endothelial 11βHSD2 activity. Together these findings further our understanding of adipose tissue cortisol physiology in health, suggesting that 11βHSD1 may play a relatively important role in modulating activation of glucocorticoid receptors in adipose tissue, and that dysregulation or inhibition of 11βHSD1 may affect cortisol inactivation as well as regeneration.