Molecular mechanisms of dexamethasone actions in COVID-19: Ion channels and airway surface liquid dynamics.

Faculty of Medicine, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Dublin 2, Ireland; Centro de Estudios Cientificos, Valdivia, Chile. Electronic address:

Steroids. 2024;:109348


The COVID-19 pandemic has been a global health crisis of unprecedented magnitude. In the battle against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, dexamethasone, a widely used corticosteroid with potent anti-inflammatory properties, has emerged as a promising therapy in the fight against severe COVID-19. Dexamethasone is a synthetic glucocorticoid that exerts its therapeutic effects by suppressing the immune system and reducing inflammation. In the context of COVID-19, the severe form of the disease is often characterized by a hyperactive immune response, known as a cytokine storm. Dexamethasone anti-inflammatory properties make it a potent tool in modulating this exaggerated immune response. Lung inflammation may lead to excessive fluid accumulation in the airways which can reduce gas exchange and mucociliary clearance. Pulmonary oedema and flooding of the airways are hallmarks of severe COVID-19 lung disease. The volume of airway surface liquid is determined by a delicate balance of salt and water secretion and absorption across the airway epithelium. In addition to its anti-inflammatory actions, dexamethasone modulates the activity of ion channels which regulate electrolyte and water transport across the airway epithelium. The observations of dexamethasone activation of sodium ion absorption via ENaC Na+ channels and inhibition of chloride ion secretion via CFTR Cl- channels to decrease airway surface liquid volume indicate a novel therapeutic action of the glucocorticoid to reverse airway flooding. This brief review delves into the early non-genomic and late genomic signaling mechanisms of dexamethasone regulation of ion channels and airway surface liquid dynamics, shedding light on the molecular mechanisms underpinning the action of the glucocorticoid in managing COVID-19.

Methodological quality

Publication Type : Review