Effect of adrenalectomy and glucocorticoid replacement on development of obesity

M. R. Freedman, Barbara A Horwitz, J. S. Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Female obese and lean Zucker rats were adrenalectomized (ADX) or sham-operated at 4 wk of age. ADX animals were given daily injections of 0.01, 0.05, 0.50, 1.0, or 2.0 mg hydrocortisone/100 g body wt for 30 days. ADX rats gained less weight than sham-operated controls. Obese ADX rats at the lowest dose (0.01) had a net positive energy gain but lost body fat. As steroid dose increased, obese rats deposited more fat and less protein. Doses of 0.01 and 0.05 mg produced rats that were less fat than sham-operated controls, whereas doses of 0.50, 1.0, and 2.0 mg produced rats of comparable body fat composition. Obese rats were consistently fatter and had a significantly smaller percentage body protein than lean rats at each dose. Body fat elevation was reflected by heavier parametrial and retroperitoneal fat depots and larger fat cells at all doses except the lowest. Compared with sham-operated controls, lean and obese rats at the two lowest replacement doses (0.01, 0.05) exhibited significantly elevated brown adipose tissue protein content and citrate synthase (CS) activity. Obese rats at these doses had significantly reduced adipose tissue lipoprotein lipase (LPL) activity in the retroperitoneal depot and lower food intake. Furthermore, these obese rats had adipose depot weights, cell sizes, LPL activity, and plasma insulin, glucose, and triglyceride comparable to that of lean sham-operated controls. As steroid dose increased (0.5, 1.0, 2.0), plasma insulin and triglyceride and food intake markedly increased only in obese rats. Adipose tissue LPL activity appeared unaffected by dose. Brown adipose tissue protein content and CS activity significantly decreased as dose increased in both lean and obese rats. At all doses of replacement obese rats were more responsive to steroid than were lean rats. Obese rats receiving 0.01 mg had comparable fat depot weights, cell sizes, and plasma insulin and triglyceride as lean rats receiving 50 times as much steroid per day (0.50 mg). These results suggest glucocorticoids play an important role in the early development of obesity in the Zucker rat and support the hypothesis that obese rats are more responsive to glucocorticoids than are lean rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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