A quantitative in vitro assay was employed to directly assess the effect of corticosteroids on the IgG and complement receptor function of human mononuclear phagocytic cells. In this system corticosteroids were solubilized with cholesterol-phospholipid sonicated dispersions before exposure to mononuclear cells. Solubilized corticosteroids at concentrations between 10(-4) and 10(-3) M inhibited both IgG and complement receptor activity in a dose-response fashion. Inhibition was dependent upon the time of interaction of the mononuclear cells with corticosteroids and was half-maximal by 15 min. The inhibitory effect at all concentrations of hydrocortisone was partially overcome by increasing the number of IgG molecules per erythrocyte. Hydrocortisone also inhibited the binding of erythrocytes coated with both IgG and C3, despite the fact that when both were on the erythrocyte surface a synergistic effect on binding to mononuclear cells was observed. At the steroid concentrations employed, the capacity of mononuclear cells to exclude trypan blue and to take up latex particles and neutral red was unaffected. Mineralocorticoids also inhibited receptor activity, but the sex hormones were less effective. These studies demonstrate an effect of steroid hormones on cell membrane receptor function, and they suggest that an inhibition of the recognition system for IgG and C3 in vivo may explain, in part, the effect of corticosteroids in man.


A D Schreiber, J Parsons, P McDermott, R A Cooper


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