It is well known that high levels of glucocorticoids cause osteoporosis and that physiologic levels of growth hormone (GH) are required for normal bone remodeling. It has been suggested that glucocorticoids regulate GH-responses via the regulation of GH-receptor expression. The aim of the present study was to investigate whether cortisol plays a role in the regulation of GH-receptor expression in cultured human osteoblasts. The effect of serum starvation and cortisol on GH-receptor expression was tested in human osteoblast (hOB)-like cells. Serum starvation for 24 h resulted in an increase in GH-receptor mRNA levels (90 +/- 1% over control culture). Cortisol increased GH-receptor mRNA levels in a dose-dependent manner with a maximal effect at 10(-6)M. The stimulating effect of cortisol on GH-receptor mRNA levels was time-dependent, reaching a peak 12 h after the addition of cortisol (126 +/- 29% over control culture) and remaining up to 12 h later. The increase in GH-receptor mRNA levels was accompanied by an increase in 125I-GH binding which reached a maximum at 24 h (196 +/- 87% over control culture). In conclusion, glucocorticoids increase GH-receptor expression in hOB-like cells. Further studies are needed to clarify whether glucocorticoid-induced regulation of the GH-receptor is important in human bone physiology.