Carbonyl reductase 1 amplifies glucocorticoid action in adipose tissue and impairs glucose tolerance in lean mice

Rachel M.B. Bell, Elisa Villalobos, Mark Nixon, Allende Miguelez-Crespo, Lee Murphy, Angie Fawkes, Audrey Coutts, Matthew G.F. Sharp, Martha V. Koerner, Emma Allan, Onno C. Meijer, Renè Houtman, Alex Odermatt, Katharina R. Beck, Scott G. Denham, Patricia Lee, Natalie Z.M. Homer, Brian R. Walker, Ruth A. Morgan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Carbonyl reductase 1 (Cbr1), a recently discovered contributor to tissue glucocorticoid metabolism converting corticosterone to 20β-dihydrocorticosterone (20β-DHB), is upregulated in adipose tissue of obese humans and mice and may contribute to cardiometabolic complications of obesity. This study tested the hypothesis that Cbr1-mediated glucocorticoid metabolism influences glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor activation in adipose tissue and impacts glucose homeostasis in lean and obese states. Methods: The actions of 20β-DHB on corticosteroid receptors in adipose tissue were investigated first using a combination of in silico, in vitro, and transcriptomic techniques and then in vivo administration in combination with receptor antagonists. Mice lacking one Cbr1 allele and mice overexpressing Cbr1 in their adipose tissue underwent metabolic phenotyping before and after induction of obesity with high-fat feeding. Results: 20β-DHB activated both the glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor in adipose tissue and systemic administration to wild-type mice induced glucose intolerance, an effect that was ameliorated by both glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor antagonism. Cbr1 haploinsufficient lean male mice had lower fasting glucose and improved glucose tolerance compared with littermate controls, a difference that was abolished by administration of 20β-DHB and absent in female mice with higher baseline adipose 20β-DHB concentrations than male mice. Conversely, overexpression of Cbr1 in adipose tissue resulted in worsened glucose tolerance and higher fasting glucose in lean male and female mice. However, neither Cbr1 haploinsfficiency nor adipose overexpression affected glucose dyshomeostasis induced by high-fat feeding. Conclusions: Carbonyl reductase 1 is a novel regulator of glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor activation in adipose tissue that influences glucose homeostasis in lean mice.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101225
JournalMolecular Metabolism
Early online date27 Mar 2021
Publication statusPrint publication - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Authors


  • Corticosterone
  • Glucocorticoid
  • Glucocorticoid receptor
  • Glucose
  • Metabolism
  • Mineralocorticoid receptor
  • Obesity


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