Molecular biology of glucocorticoid signaling
Well-defined as signaling hormones for the programming of cell type-specific and context-dependent gene expression signatures, glucocorticoids control experience-driven allostasis. One unifying model is that glucocorticoids help maintaining the integrity and plasticity of cellular networks in changing environments through the mobilization of cellular energy stores, profiling of gene expression, and changes in the electrical and morphological properties of cells. The nucleus is their primary site of action, yet recent discoveries point to additional gene transcription-independent functions at the plasma membrane of neuronal synapses. Glucocorticoids are secreted factors that reflect intrinsically the changes coming from the external world, temporally and regionally, during development and adulthood. In this review, we will enumerate the properties and signaling attributes of glucocorticoids and their receptors that characterize them as allostatic modulators. The molecular mechanisms used to support their role at the synapse will be highlighted.