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    The glucocorticoid receptor NR3C1 is expressed in multiple cell types in the gut and elsewhere. Intestinal epithelial cells both produce and respond to glucocorticoids in different physiological and pathological contexts. In experimental colitis, glucocorticoids have been shown to exert a dual role, dampening inflammation while producing a deterioration in animal status, including death. Mice with tamoxifen-inducible, intestinal epithelial-specific deletion of NR3C1 (NR3C1ΔIEC mice) are protected against experimental colitis, suggesting glucocorticoid epithelial actions are deleterious. Since glucocorticoids modulate epithelial proliferation, it follows that they may affect the development of colon cancer. In this study, we set out to test this hypothesis using the dextran sulfate sodium-azoxymethane model of colitis-associated cancer. Knockout (KO) mice were found to exhibit a twofold higher tumor load but similar incidence and tumor size. Tumors had a higher trend to extend close to the submucosal layer (36% vs. 0%) in NR3C1ΔIEC mice, and overexpressed Lgr5, Egfr, and Myc, consistent with distinct expression of proliferative/stemness markers. Snai1 and Snai2 were upregulated specifically in tumors of NR3C1ΔIEC mice, suggesting enhanced epithelial to mesenchymal transition in the absence of the intestinal epithelial glucocorticoid (GC) receptor. We conclude that endogenous GC epithelial signaling is involved in colitis-associated cancer.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Mice carrying a tamoxifen-inducible deletion of the glucocorticoid receptor in intestinal epithelial cells (NR3C1ΔIEC mice) and their corresponding controls were subjected to the azoxymethane-dextran sulfate sodium model of colitis-associated cancer. KO mice exhibit a twofold higher tumor load, with a higher trend to extend close to the submucosal layer (36% vs. 0%), but with similar incidence and tumor size. Colonic tumors in NR3C1ΔIEC mice showed signs of increased neoplastic transformation and tumor-associated inflammation.


    María Arredondo-Amador, Raquel González, Carlos J Aranda, Olga Martínez-Augustin, Fermín Sánchez de Medina. Mice carrying an epithelial deletion of the glucocorticoid receptor NR3C1 develop a higher tumor load in experimental colitis-associated cancer. American journal of physiology. Gastrointestinal and liver physiology. 2021 Dec 01;321(6):G705-G718

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    PMID: 34669484

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