Modeling inter-sex and inter-individual variability in response to chronopharmacological administration of synthetic glucocorticoids

Megerle L. Scherholz, Rohit T. Rao, Ioannis P. Androulakis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Endogenous glucocorticoids have diverse physiological effects and are important regulators of metabolism, immunity, cardiovascular function, musculoskeletal health and central nervous system activity. Synthetic glucocorticoids have received widespread attention for their potent anti-inflammatory activity and have become an important class of drugs used to augment endogenous glucocorticoid activity for the treatment of a host of chronic inflammatory conditions. Chronic use of synthetic glucocorticoids is associated with a number of adverse effects as a result of the persistent dysregulation of glucocorticoid sensitive pathways. A failure to consider the pronounced circadian rhythmicity of endogenous glucocorticoids can result in either supraphysiological glucocorticoid exposure or severe suppression of endogenous glucocorticoid secretion, and is thought be a causal factor in the incidence of adverse effects during chronic glucocorticoid therapy. Furthermore, given that synthetic glucocorticoids have potent feedback effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, physiological factors which can give rise to individual variability in HPA axis activity such as sex, age, and disease state might also have substantial implications for therapy. We use a semi-mechanistic mathematical model of the rodent HPA axis to study how putative sex differences and individual variability in HPA axis regulation can influence the effects of long-term synthetic exposure on endogenous glucocorticoid circadian rhythms. Model simulations suggest that for the same drug exposure, simulated females exhibit less endogenous suppression than males considering differences in adrenal sensitivity and negative feedback to the hypothalamus and pituitary. Simulations reveal that homeostatic regulatory variability and chronic stress-induced regulatory adaptations in the HPA axis network can result in substantial differences in the effects of synthetic exposure on the circadian rhythm of endogenous glucocorticoids. In general, our results provide insight into how the dosage and exposure profile of synthetic glucocorticoids could be manipulated in a personalized manner to preserve the circadian dynamics of endogenous glucocorticoids during chronic therapy, thus potentially minimizing the incidence of adverse effects associated with long-term use of glucocorticoids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-296
Number of pages16
JournalChronobiology International
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


  • Personalized
  • circadian
  • glucocorticoids


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