Obesity Is Accompanied by Disturbances in Peripheral Glucocorticoid Metabolism and Changes in FA Recycling




The glucocorticoid activating enzyme 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11βHSD1) is of major interest in obesity-related morbidity. Alterations in tissue-specific cortisol levels may influence lipogenetic and gluco/glyceroneogenetic pathways in fat and liver. We analyzed the expression and activity of 11βHSD1 as well as the expression of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK), sterol regulatory element binding protein (SREBP), and fatty acid synthase (FAS) in adipose and liver and investigated putative associations between 11βHSD1 and energy metabolism genes. A total of 33 obese women (mean BMI 44.6) undergoing gastric bypass surgery were enrolled. Subcutaneous adipose tissue (SAT), omental fat (omental adipose tissue (OmAT)), and liver biopsies were collected during the surgery. 11βHSD1 gene expression was higher in SAT vs. OmAT (P = 0.013), whereas the activity was higher in OmAT (P = 0.009). The SAT 11βHSD1 correlated with waist circumference (P = 0.045) and was an independent predictor for the OmAT area in a linear regression model. Energy metabolism genes had AT depot–specific expression; higher leptin and SREBP in SAT than OmAT, but higher PEPCK in OmAT than SAT. The expression of 11βHSD1 correlated with PEPCK in both AT depots (P = 0.05 for SAT and P = 0.0001 for OmAT). Hepatic 11βHSD1 activity correlated negatively with abdominal adipose area (P = 0.002) and expression positively with PEPCK (P = 0.003). In human obesity, glucocorticoid regeneration in the SAT is associated with central fat accumulation indicating that the importance of this specific fat depot is underestimated. Central fat accumulation is negatively associated with hepatic 11βHSD1 activity. A disturbance in peripheral glucocorticoid metabolism is associated with changes in genes involved in fatty acid (FA) recycling in adipose tissue (AT).