The glucocorticoid and progesterone antagonist RU 486 normalizes the clinical and biochemical features of hypercortisolism in patients with nonpituitary Cushing's syndrome, presumably by antagonizing the action(s) of cortisol. Since RU 486 has progesterone agonist activity in addition to its progesterone antagonist action, the possibility that it might have some glucocorticoid agonist action did not seem unreasonable. To test this hypothesis we examined the effects of RU 486 on pituitary ACTH secretion in 10 patients with primary adrenal insufficiency in whom glucocorticoid replacement was withheld for 36 h. Each patient received, in randomized sequence 3-7 days apart, an oral dose of placebo, RU 486 (20 mg/kg), cortisol (0.1 mg/kg), or a combination of RU 486 and cortisol at 1800 h. Two hours later, an iv bolus dose of ovine CRH (1 µg/kg) was administered, and plasma ACTH levels were measured serially for 3 h. RU 486 suppressed ovine CRH-stimulated ACTH secretion, albeit less than cortisol. Its glucocorticoid agonist effect was calculated to be approximately l/250th that of cortisol on a weight basis. Additionally, RU 486 partially antagonized cortisol-induced suppression of ACTH secretion. These findings suggest that RU 486 is a partial glucocorticoid agonist and offer some insight as to its action in patients with Cushing's syndrome. Whether this degree of glucocorticoid agonist activity is adequate to support life, however, is not known.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Biochemistry, medical