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Glucocorticoids, Steroid Hormones

Glucocorticoids are adrenocortical steroid hormones. Glucocorticoids have many physiological and pharmacological actions. They control or influence carbohydrate, protein, lipid and purine metabolism; affect cardiovascular and nervous systems and skeletal muscle; regulate growth hormone gene expression, and have anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive actions that arise through complex mechanisms. Glucocorticoids stimulate glycogen storage synthesis by inducing the synthesis of glycogen synthase (enzyme) and stimulate production of glucose in the liver. They have a catabolic effect (causing break down of complex substances into simple ones) on muscle tissue which promotes the release of amino acids from muscle. Lipid metabolism and synthesis increase sunstantially in the presence of glucocorticoids, but the actions usually depend on the presence of other hormones and cofactors. The most important of the three glucocorticoids is cortisol (hydrocortisone); corticosteron is less active, and cortisone is inactive until converted to cortisol.

A deficiency of glucocorticoids is characterized by hyperpigmentation (bronzing) of the skin, fasting hypoglycemia (low level of glucose in the blood), weight loss and apathy. An excess is associated with elevated serum glucose level, thinning of the skin, osteporosis, poor wound healing, increased susceptibility to infection, and obesity. Synthetic or semisynthetic glucocorticoids, derived chiefly from cortisol, include prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, triamcinolone, and betamethasone.


  1. Mosby's Dictionary of Medical, Nursing & health professions
  2. Wilson and Gisvold's textbook of Organic medicinal and Pharmaceutical chemistry. John H. Block, John M. Beale, Jr.

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