Acute glucocorticoid pretreatment suppresses stress-induced hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis hormone secretion and expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone hnRNA but does not affect c-fos mRNA or fos protein expression in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus.J Neuroendocrinol. 2003 Nov; 15(11):1075-83.JN
Corticosterone regulates both basal and stress-induced hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity in a negative-feedback fashion. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms of this negative feedback have yet to be explicitly characterized. By comparing stress-induced c-fos and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) expression in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN), we may be able to determine whether acute glucocorticoid treatment affects the net neural excitatory input to the PVN (represented primarily by c-fos mRNA expression) or directly affects the ability of cells in the PVN to respond to that input (represented primarily by CRH hnRNA expression). In the following studies, we observed the effect of acute glucocorticoid (RU28362) treatment on subsequent HPA axis reactivity by measuring stress-induced plasma hormone concentration [corticosterone and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)] and gene expression (c-fos and CRH) in the PVN. First, we examined the dose-response relationship between systemically administered RU28362 (1-150 microg/kg, i.p) and suppression of the stress-induced corticosterone response. We then confirmed central nervous system access of the maximally suppressive dose of RU28362 (150 microg/kg) by an ex vivo radioligand binding assay. RU28362 selectively occupied the majority of glucocorticoid receptors in the hippocampus and hypothalamus while having no effect on mineralocorticoid receptors. In separate studies, RU28362 (150 microg/kg) and corticosterone (5 mg/kg) were injected i.p. 1 h before restraint stress. Compared to vehicle-treated controls, rats treated with RU28362 and corticosterone had substantially blunted stress-induced corticosterone and ACTH production, respectively. Furthermore, treatment with RU28362 significantly blunted stress-induced CRH hnRNA expression in the PVN. By contrast, neither RU28362 nor corticosterone treatment had an effect on stress-induced neuronal activation as measured by c-fos mRNA and its protein product in the PVN. This dissociation between c-fos and CRH gene expression suggests that glucocorticoid suppression of HPA activity within this time-frame is not a result of decreased excitatory neural input to the PVN, but instead depends on some direct effect of RU28362 on cells intrinsic to the HPA axis.