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Differences between men and women in the regulation of adipose 11β-HSD1 and in its association with adiposity and insulin resistance


Correspondence to: Dr Jan W. Eriksson, Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University, 751 85 Uppsala, Sweden.E-mail:


This study explored sex differences in 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) activity and gene expression in isolated adipocytes and adipose tissue (AT), obtained via subcutaneous biopsies from non-diabetic subjects [58 M, 64 F; age 48.3 ± 15.3 years, body mass index (BMI) 27.2 ± 3.9 kg/m2]. Relationships with adiposity and insulin resistance (IR) were addressed. Males exhibited higher 11β-HSD1 activity in adipocytes than females, but there was no such difference for AT. In both men and women, adipocyte 11β-HSD1 activity correlated positively with BMI, waist circumference, % body fat, adipocyte size and with serum glucose, triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein:high-density lipoprotein (LDL:HDL) ratio. Positive correlations with insulin, HOMA-IR and haemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) and a negative correlation with HDL-cholesterol were significant only in males. Conversely, 11β-HSD1 activity in AT correlated with several markers of IR and adiposity in females but not in males, but the opposite pattern was found with respect to 11β-HSD1 mRNA expression. This study suggests that there are sex differences in 11β-HSD1 regulation and in its associations with markers of obesity and IR.