Characterization of a novel oral glucocorticoid system and its possible role in disease

N. Cirillo, Y. Hassona, M. Pignatelli, T. H. Gasparoto, D. J. Morgan, S. S. Prime

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Synthetic corticosteroids are used widely for the treatment of a variety of diseases of the mouth. However, little is known as to whether the oral mucosa is able to modulate the local concentration of active corticosteroids or to produce steroids de novo. This has important clinical implications, because tissue-specific regulation of glucocorticoids is a key determinant of the clinical efficacy of these drugs. In the present study, we show that oral fibroblasts and keratinocytes expressed ACTH receptor (MC2R), glucocorticoid receptor (GR), and 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases (11β-HSDs). Unlike keratinocytes, fibroblasts lacked 11β-HSD2 and could not effectively deactivate exogenously administered cortisol. However, both cell types were able not only to activate cortisone into the active form cortisol, but also to synthesize cortisol de novo following stimulation with ACTH. 11β-HSD2, the enzyme controlling cortisol deactivation, exhibited different patterns of expression in normal (squamous epithelium and salivary glands) and diseased oral mucosa (squamous cell carcinoma and mucoepidermoid carcinoma). Blocking of endogenous cortisol catabolism in keratinocytes with the 11β-HSD2 inhibitor 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid mimicked the effect of exogenous administration of hydrocortisone and partially prevented the detrimental effects induced by pemphigus vulgaris sera. Analysis of the data demonstrates that a novel, non-adrenal glucocorticoid system is present in the oral mucosa that may play an important role in disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-103
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Dental Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


  • cortisol
  • fibroblasts
  • keratinocytes
  • oral cancer
  • oral mucosa
  • pemphigus vulgaris

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry


Dive into the research topics of 'Characterization of a novel oral glucocorticoid system and its possible role in disease'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this