Journal of veterinary internal medicine

Glucocorticoid receptor density and binding affinity in healthy horses and horses with systemic inflammatory response syndrome.

PMID 25818217


Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis occurs in horses with systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS). Peripheral resistance to glucocorticoids has not been investigated in horses. To determine if glucocorticoid receptor (GR) function in horses can be measured using flow cytometry, and to use this information to evaluate HPA axis dynamics. Eleven healthy adult horses in parts 1 and 2. Ten horses with SIRS and 10 age and sex matched controls in part 3. Flow cytometry was used to evaluate GR density and binding affinity (BA) in 3 healthy horses in part 1. In part 2, exogenous ACTH was administered to eight healthy horses. Their cortisol response and GR properties were measured. In part 3, CBC, serum biochemistry, cortisol and ACTH, and GR properties were compared between controls without SIRS (nxa0=xa010) and horses with SIRS (nxa0=xa010), and between survivors and nonsurvivors (nxa0=xa04 and nxa0=xa06 respectively). Flow cytometry can be used to measure GR properties in equine PBMCs. No correlation was observed between plasma cortisol concentration and GR density or BA in healthy horses (rxa0=xa0-0.145, Pxa0=xa0.428 and rxa0=xa00.046, Pxa0=xa0.802 respectively). Nonsurvivors with SIRS had significantly decreased GR BA (Pxa0=xa0.008). Horses with triglyceride concentration > 28.5xa0mg/dL had increased odds of nonsurvival (OR=117; 95% CI, 1.94-7,060). GR BA <35.79% was associated with nonsurvival (ORxa0=xa030.33; 95% CI, 0.96-960.5). Tissue resistance to glucocorticoids contributes to HPA axis dysfunction in adult horses with SIRS. These horses might benefit from treatment with exogenous glucocorticoids.