CONTEXT: 11β-Hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1 (11βHSD1) reduces inert cortisone into active cortisol but also catalyzes reverse dehydrogenase activity. Drivers of cortisol/cortisone equilibrium are unclear. With obesity, 11βHSD1 transcripts are more abundant in adipose, but the consequences for oxidation vs reduction remain unknown. OBJECTIVE: This work aimed to determine whether 11βHSD1 equilibrium in metabolic tissues is regulated by insulin and obesity. METHODS: A 2-phase, randomized, crossover, single-blinded study in a clinical research facility was conducted of 10 lean and obese healthy men. 11β-Reductase and 11β-dehydrogenase activities were measured during infusion of 9,11,12,12-[2H]4-cortisol and 1,2-[2H]2-cortisone, respectively, on 2 occasions: once during saline infusion and once during a hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp. Arterialized and venous samples were obtained across forearm skeletal muscle and abdominal subcutaneous adipose. Steroids were quantified by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry and adipose tissue transcripts by quantitative polymerase chain reaction. RESULTS: Neither whole-body nor tissue-specific rates of production of cortisol or cortisone differed between lean and obese men, however insulin attenuated the diurnal decrease. Whole-body 11β-HSD1 reductase activity tended to be higher in obesity (~ 10%) and was further increased by insulin. Across adipose tissue, 11β-reductase activity was detected in obese individuals only and increased in the presence of insulin (18.99 ± 9.62 vs placebo 11.68 ± 3.63 pmol/100 g/minute; P < .05). Across skeletal muscle, 11β-dehydrogenase activity was reduced by insulin in lean men only (2.55 ± 0.90 vs 4.50 ± 1.42 pmol/100 g/minute, P < .05). CONCLUSIONS: Regeneration of cortisol is upregulated by insulin in adipose tissue but not skeletal muscle. In obesity, the equilibrium between 11β-reductase and 11β-dehydrogenase activities likely promotes cortisol accumulation in adipose, which may lead to adverse metabolic consequences.
J Clin Endocrinol Metab
e1206 - e1220
11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase 1, cortisol, cortisone, insulin, obesity