Prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids (GCs) causes various metabolic derangements. These include obesity and insulin resistance, as inhibiting glucose utilization in adipose tissues is a major function of GCs. Although adipose tissue distribution and glucose homeostasis are sex-dependently regulated, it has not been evaluated whether GCs affect glucose metabolism and adipose tissue functions in a sex-dependent manner. In this study, high-dose corticosterone (rodent GC) treatment in C57BL/6J mice resulted in nonfasting hyperglycemia in male mice only, whereas both sexes displayed hyperinsulinemia with normal fasting glucose levels, indicative of insulin resistance. Metabolic testing using stable isotope-labeled glucose techniques revealed a sex-specific corticosterone-driven glucose intolerance. Corticosterone treatment increased adipose tissue mass in both sexes, which was reflected by elevated serum leptin levels. However, female mice showed more metabolically protective adaptations of adipose tissues than did male mice, demonstrated by higher serum total and high-molecular-weight adiponectin levels, more hyperplastic morphological changes, and a stronger increase in mRNA expression of adipogenic differentiation markers. Subsequently, in vitro studies in 3T3-L1 (white) and T37i (brown) adipocytes suggest that the increased leptin and adiponectin levels were mainly driven by the elevated insulin levels. In summary, this study demonstrates that GC-induced insulin resistance is more severe in male mice than in female mice, which can be partially explained by a sex-dependent adaptation of adipose tissues.

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Journal Endocrinology
Kaikaew, K, Steenbergen, J, van Dijk, T.H, Grefhorst, A, & Visser, J.A. (2019). Sex Difference in Corticosterone-Induced Insulin Resistance in Mice. Endocrinology, 160(10), 2367–2387. doi:10.1210/en.2019-00194