The effects of glucocorticoids on biochemical functions of macrophages from man, mouse, rabbit, and guinea pig were examined. Secretion of plasminogen activator by human peripheral blood monocytes was decreased by 50% with 1 nM dexamethasone. Differentiation of murine monocytic and granulocytic colonies in agar from bone marrow precursors was decreased by 50% at 7 days with 20 nM dexamethasone. Secretion of elastase, collagenase, and plasminogen activator by resident and thioglycollate-elicited mouse peritoneal macrophages was decreased by dexamethasone, cortisol, and triamcinolone acetonide (1--1,000 nM), but not by progesterone, estradiol, and dihydrotestosterone (1,000 nM); in contrast, secretion of lysozyme was not affected by glucocorticoids or other steroids. The inhibition of macrophage secretion by dexamethasone was both time and dose dependent. Effects were detected within 1--6 h after addition of the glucocorticoids, became maximum by 24 h, and were reversed during a similar time period after removal of the hormones. The extent of inhibition of macrophage secretion increased with increasing glucocorticoid concentration. Half-maximum inhibition of secretion of elastase, collagenase, and plasminogen activator was seen at dexamethasone concentrations (1--10 nM) similar to those that half-saturated the specific glucocorticoid receptors in these cells. At high concentrations of dexamethasone (100--1,000 nM) the secretion of plasminogen activator was inhibited to a greater extent (greater than 95%) than the secretion of elastase (60--80%). Progesterone alone had no effect on secretion, but it blocked the inhibitory effects of dexamethasone and cortisol. Secretion of collagenase, neutral proteinases, and plasminogen activator by elicited rabbit alveolar macrophages was inhibited with glucocorticoids (0.1--100 nM) but not with progesterone or sex steroids. Secretion of a neutral elastinolytic proteinase by guinea pig alveolar macrophages was also inhibited by dexamethasone. These data support the regulatory role of glucocorticoids on macrophage functions at physiological concentrations.

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