Altered glucocorticoid receptor expression and function during mouse skin carcinogenesis

Irina V. Budunova, Steve Carbajal, Ho Il Kang, Aurora Viaje, Thomas J. Slaga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Clucocorticoids are the most potent inhibitors of tumor promotion in mouse skin, when applied with a promoting agent at the early stages of promotion. However, established skin papillomas become resistant to growth inhibition by glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoid control of cellular functions is mediated by the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), a well-known transcription factor. Here we present data on GR expression and function in mouse papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Tumors were produced in SENCAR mice by a 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene and 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate two-stage protocol. In early papillomas (after 15-20 wk of promotion), northern blotting revealed a decrease in the GR mRNA level that was confirmed by a binding assay. However, in late papillomas (after 30-40 wk of promotion), and especially in squamous cell carcinomas, the level of GR in both assays was similar to or higher than the GR level in normal epidermis. To test the functional capability of GR in tumors, we compared the effect of the synthetic glucocorticoid fluocinolone acetonide (FA) on keratinocyte proliferation and on expression of glucocorticoid-responsive genes in normal epidermis, hyperplastic skin surrounding tumors, and mouse skin papillomas. FA strongly inhibited DNA synthesis in keratinocytes in normal skin and tumor-surrounding skin but had no effect on DNA synthesis in papillomas. In addition, FA strongly induced metallothionein 1 expression and inhibited connexin 26 expression in skin but did not affect expression of these genes in tumors. These data suggest that alteration of both the expression and function of GR may be an important mechanism of tumor promotion in skin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)177-185
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular Carcinogenesis
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Glucocorticoid receptor
  • Proliferation
  • Skin tumors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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