Bariatric surgery normalizes circulating glucocorticoid levels and lowers glucocorticoid action tissue-selectively in mice

E. Akalestou, L. Lopez-Noriega, I. Christakis, A.D. Miras, I. Leclerc, G.A. Rutter

Research output: Other contributionpeer-review


Background Glucocorticoids produced by the adrenal cortex are essential for the maintenance of metabolic homeostasis. Glucocorticoid activation is catalyzed by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (11β-HSD1) and signalling is achieved through the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), a ligand-dependent transcription factor. Excess glucocorticoids are associated with insulin resistance and hyperglycaemia. A small number of studies have investigated the effects of bariatric surgery, a gastrointestinal procedure known to improve insulin sensitivity, on glucocorticoid metabolism, but the hypothesised mechanism is assumed to be via weight loss.

Aim To investigate the effect of bariatric surgery on glucocorticoid metabolism in lean and obese mice.

Methods Lean mice and HFD mice underwent Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy (VSG) or sham surgery. Glucose and insulin tolerance tests were performed at four and ten weeks post operatively and circulating corticosterone was measured. Liver and adipose tissues were harvested from fed mice and 11β-HSD1 and GR levels were measured by quantitative RT-PCR or Western (immuno-) blotting, respectively.

Results VSG did not cause excess weight loss in lean mice when compared to sham operated mice. However, both lean and HFD VSG mice displayed significantly improved glucose clearance and insulin sensitivity. Remarkably, VSG restores physiological corticosterone production in HFD mice and reduces11β-HSD1 levels at four and ten weeks post-surgery. Additionally, lean mice displayed significantly lowered mRNA levels of 11β-HSD1 in subcutaneous adipose tissue and GR in liver.

Conclusions Bariatric surgery improves insulin sensitivity and reduces glucocorticoid activation at tissular level, under physiological and pathophysiological (obesity) conditions, irrespective of weight loss. The reduction of glucocorticoid exposure may represent an additional contribution to the health benefits of bariatric surgery. These findings point towards a physiologically relevant gut-adrenal axis.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 24 Jul 2020


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