The enzyme 11 β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11-HSD) appears to be involved in mediating aldosterone specificity of otherwise nonselective type I receptors in mineralocorticoid target tissues. In the present study gene expression of 11- HSD was characterized in various tissues of the rat by use of a complementary DNA probe coding for the rat liver 11-HSD. In the liver, lung, testis, colon, heart, hippocampus, and kidney papilla a single message was observed of length approximately 1700 nucleotides (nt). In the kidney cortex/medulla, however, messenger RNA (mRNA) species were observed at 1900 nt, 1600 nt and 1500 nt, and deadenylation studies showed that the renal 1900 nt species was heterogeneous. Northern blot analysis of 11- HSD mRNA showed low levels of expression in the kidney of the neonate and much higher levels in liver and lung with expression increasing markedly in all three tissues over development. In mature rats, a low salt diet significantly elevated 11- HSD mRNA in the liver but not in other tissues. We interpret these data as evidence for the existence of a family of 11-HSD genes, and consistent with the possibility that the hepatic species may modulate occupancy of type II (classical) glucocorticoid rather than type I receptors.
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