Circadian rhythm of adrenal glucocorticoid: Its regulation and clinical implications

Sooyoung Chung, Gi Hoon Son, Kyungjin Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

228 Scopus citations


Glucocorticoid (GC) is an adrenal steroid hormone that controls a variety of physiological processes such as metabolism, immune response, cardiovascular activity, and brain function. In addition to GC induction in response to stress, even in relatively undisturbed states its circulating level is subjected to a robust daily variation with a peak around the onset of the active period of the day. It has long been believed that the synthesis and secretion of GC are primarily regulated by the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) neuroendocrine axis. However, recent chronobiological research strongly supports the idea that multiple regulatory mechanisms along with the classical HPA neuroendocrine axis underlie the diurnal rhythm of circulating GC. Most notably, recent studies demonstrate that the molecular circadian clockwork is heavily involved in the daily GC rhythm at multiple levels. The daily GC rhythm is implicated in various human diseases accompanied by abnormal GC levels. Patients with such diseases frequently show a blunted GC rhythmicity and, more importantly, circadian rhythm-related symptoms. In this review, we focus on recent advances in the understanding of the circadian regulation of adrenal GC and its implications in human health and disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)581-591
Number of pages11
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants from the Korea Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) through the Brain Research Center for the 21st Century Frontier R&D Program in Neuroscience . Sooyoung Chung was supported by the Brain Korea 21 Research Fellowships from the MEST .


  • Adrenal gland
  • Biological clock
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Glucocorticoid
  • HPA axis


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