The first known step in steroid hormone action is the association of the steroid with specific cytoplasmic steroid binding proteins (SBP). Using a competitive binding assay the authors detected, quantified, and partially characterized such a SBP in cytosol from glucocorticoid sensitive human lymphoblastic leukemic blasts. The affinity of steroids for the SBP was directly related to their known killing potency. For example, steroids without glucocorticoid effect such as androstenedione, etiocholanolone, and tetrahydrocortisol were unable to displace radiolabeled dexamethasone from the SBP in the binding reaction. The dose response curve for in vitro inhibition of [ 3H] thymidine uptake in leukemic blasts correlated closely with the binding affinity of glucocorticoids to the SBP, providing additional support for an essential physiologic role for SBP in steroid action. SBP activity was either greatly diminished or absent in glucocorticoid resistant cells. 6 patients who intially had SBP in their blasts and were responsive to combinations of drugs including glucocorticoids no longer had SBP activity detectable at a time when they no longer responded to combinations of drugs including glucocorticoids. In vitro [ 3H] thymidine uptake was not inhibited by steroids in leukemic blast cells lacking SBP activity. Other patients who had received some antileukemic therapy including glucocorticoids and who still had SBP in their leukemic blasts, were still responsive to drug combinations that included glucocorticoids. This appears to be the first study demonstrating glucocorticoid receptors in a human tissue.
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