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CONTEXT: The etiology of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) is unknown. We hypothesized that obesity and elevated intracranial pressure may be linked through increased 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) activity. OBJECTIVE: The aim was to characterize 11β-HSD1 in human cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) secretory [choroid plexus (CP)] and drainage [arachnoid granulation tissue (AGT)] structures, and to evaluate 11β-HSD1 activity after therapeutic weight loss in IIH. DESIGN AND SETTING: We conducted in vitro analysis of CP and AGT and a prospective in vivo cohort study set in two tertiary care centers. PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-five obese adult female patients with active IIH were studied, and 22 completed the study. INTERVENTION: Fasted serum, CSF, and 24-h urine samples were collected at baseline, after 3-month observation, and after a 3-month diet. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Changes in urine, serum, and CSF glucocorticoids (measured by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry) after weight loss were measured. RESULTS: 11β-HSD1 and key elements of the glucocorticoid signaling pathway were expressed in CP and AGT. After weight loss (14.2±7.8 kg; P<0.001), global 11β-HSD1 activity decreased (P=0.001) and correlated with reduction in intracranial pressure (r=0.504; P=0.028). CSF and serum glucocorticoids remained stable, although the change in CSF cortisone levels correlated with weight loss (r=-0.512; P=0.018). CONCLUSIONS: Therapeutic weight loss in IIH is associated with a reduction in global 11β-HSD1 activity. Elevated 11β-HSD1 may represent a pathogenic mechanism in IIH, potentially via manipulation of CSF dynamics at the CP and AGT. Although further clarification of the functional role of 11β-HSD1 in IIH is needed, our results suggest that 11β-HSD1 inhibition may have therapeutic potential in IIH.

Original publication




Journal article


J Clin Endocrinol Metab

Publication Date





5348 - 5356


11-beta-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenase Type 1, Adrenal Cortex Hormones, Adult, Biomarkers, Choroid Plexus, Chromatography, Liquid, Epithelial Cells, Female, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry, Humans, Hydrocortisone, Intracranial Hypertension, Intracranial Pressure, Mass Spectrometry, Obesity, Polymerase Chain Reaction, RNA, RNA, Messenger, Steroids, Weight Loss