Glucocorticoid receptor signaling in the eye

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Glucocorticoids (GCs) are essential steroid hormones that regulate numerous metabolic and homeostatic functions in almost all physiological systems. Synthetic glucocorticoids are among the most commonly prescribed drugs for the treatment of various conditions including autoimmune, allergic and inflammatory diseases. Glucocorticoids are mainly used for their potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive activities mediated through signal transduction by their nuclear receptor, the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Emerging evidence showing that diverse physiological and therapeutic actions of glucocorticoids are tissue-, cell-, and sex-specific, suggests more complex actions of glucocorticoids than previously anticipated. While several synthetic glucocorticoids are widely used in the ophthalmology clinic for the treatment of several ocular diseases, little is yet known about the mechanism of glucocorticoid signaling in different layers of the eye. GR has been shown to be expressed in different cell types of the eye such as cornea, lens, and retina, suggesting an important role of GR signaling in the physiology of these ocular tissues. In this review, we provide an update on the recent findings from in vitro and in vivo studies reported in the last 5 years that aim at understanding the role of GR signaling specifically in the eye. Advances in studying the physiological effects of glucocorticoids in the eye are vital for the elaboration of optimized and targeted GC therapies with potent anti-inflammatory potential while minimizing adverse effects.

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