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Adrenal glucocorticoid (GC) hormones are important regulators of energy metabolism, brain functions, and the immune system. Their release follows robust diurnal rhythms and GCs themselves serve as entrainment signals for circadian clocks in various tissues. In the clinics, synthetic GC analogues are widely used as immunosuppressive drugs. GC inhibitory effects on the immune system are well documented and include suppression of cytokines and increased immune cell death. However, the circadian dynamics of GC action are often neglected. Synthetic GC medications fail to mimic complex GC natural rhythms. Several recent publications have shown that endogenous GCs and their daily concentration rhythms prepare the immune system to face anticipated environmental threats. That includes migration patterns that direct specific cell population to organs and tissues best exemplified by the rhythmic expression of chemoattractants and their receptors. On the other hand, chronotherapeutic approaches may benefit the treatment of immunological diseases such as asthma. In this review, we summarise our current knowledge on the circadian regulation of GCs, their role in innate and adaptive immune functions and the implications for the clinics.

Original publication




Journal article


Semin Immunopathol

Publication Date



Adaptive immunity, Circadian clock, Glucocorticoid rhythms, Innate immunity