The outcome of aerial oxidation of the glucocortico-steroid side-chain (as exemplified by dexamethasone) has been shown to be subject to strict pH control. At pH 7.4 the glyoxal is the only product; at pH values of 8 and 9.2 the etioacid is formed, and at pH values of 13 or above the epimeric glycolic acids are produced. The glycolic acid epimer that predominates by a factor of 2 and is more stable has been shown by an X-ray crystal structural analysis to be the 20R. compound. The presence of arsenite changes the course of the reaction and only the glycolic acids are yielded at pH values of 8 and above. (c) 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.