Corticosterone pattern-dependent glucocorticoid receptor binding and transcriptional regulation within the liver

Benjamin P Flynn, Matthew T Birnie, Yvonne M Kershaw, Audrys G Pauza, Sohyoung Kim, Songjoon Baek, Mark F Rogers, Alex R Paterson, Diana A Stavreva, David Murphy, Gordon L Hager, Stafford L Lightman, Ben Flynn, Becky L Conway-Campbell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (SciVal)


Ultradian glucocorticoid rhythms are highly conserved across mammalian species, however, their functional significance is not yet fully understood. Here we demonstrate that pulsatile corticosterone replacement in adrenalectomised rats induces a dynamic pattern of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) binding at ~3,000 genomic sites in liver at the pulse peak, subsequently not found during the pulse nadir. In contrast, constant corticosterone replacement induced prolonged binding at the majority of these sites. Additionally, each pattern further induced markedly different transcriptional responses. During pulsatile treatment, intragenic occupancy by active RNA polymerase II exhibited pulsatile dynamics with transient changes in enrichment, either decreased or increased depending on the gene, which mostly returned to baseline during the inter-pulse interval. In contrast, constant corticosterone exposure induced prolonged effects on RNA polymerase II occupancy at the majority of gene targets, thus acting as a sustained regulatory signal for both transactivation and repression of glucocorticoid target genes. The nett effect of these differences were consequently seen in the liver transcriptome as RNA-seq analysis indicated that despite the same overall amount of corticosterone infused, twice the number of transcripts were regulated by constant corticosterone infusion, when compared to pulsatile. Target genes that were found to be differentially regulated in a pattern-dependent manner were enriched in functional pathways including carbohydrate, cholesterol, glucose and fat metabolism as well as inflammation, suggesting a functional role for dysregulated glucocorticoid rhythms in the development of metabolic dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009737
Pages (from-to)e1009737
JournalPlos Genetics
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Cancer Research


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