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Brain mineralocorticoid receptors in cognition and cardiovascular homeostasis.

  • Gomez-Sanchez, Elise P1
  • 1 Department of Medicine, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS 39216, USA. [email protected]
Published Article
Publication Date
Dec 01, 2014
PMID: 25173821


Mineralocorticoid receptors (MR) mediate diverse functions supporting osmotic and hemodynamic homeostasis, response to injury and inflammation, and neuronal changes required for learning and memory. Inappropriate MR activation in kidneys, heart, vessels, and brain hemodynamic control centers results in cardiovascular and renal pathology and hypertension. MR binds aldosterone, cortisol and corticosterone with similar affinity, while the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) has less affinity for cortisol and corticosterone. As glucocorticoids are more abundant than aldosterone, aldosterone activates MR in cells co-expressing enzymes with 11β-hydroxydehydrogenase activity to inactivate them. MR and GR co-expressed in the same cell interact at the molecular and functional level and these functions may be complementary or opposing depending on the cell type. Thus the balance between MR and GR expression and activation is crucial for normal function. Where 11β-hydroxydehydrogenase 2 (11β-HSD2) that inactivates cortisol and corticosterone in aldosterone target cells of the kidney and nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS) is not expressed, as in most neurons, MR are activated at basal glucocorticoid concentrations, GR at stress concentrations. An exception may be pre-autonomic neurons of the PVN which express MR and 11β-HSD1 in the absence of hexose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase required to generate the requisite cofactor for reductase activity, thus it acts as a dehydrogenase. MR antagonists, valuable adjuncts to the treatment of cardiovascular disease, also inhibit MR in the brain that are crucial for memory formation and exacerbate detrimental effects of excessive GR activation on cognition and mood. 11β-HSD1 inhibitors combat metabolic and cognitive diseases related to glucocorticoid excess, but may exacerbate MR action where 11β-HSD1 acts as a dehydrogenase, while non-selective 11β-HSD1&2 inhibitors cause injurious disruption of MR hemodynamic control. MR functions in the brain are multifaceted and optimal MR:GR activity is crucial. Therefore selectively targeting down-stream effectors of MR specific actions may be a better therapeutic goal.

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