The Molecular Mechanisms Underlying the Regulation of the Biological Activity of Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Receptors: Implications for Physiology and Pathophysiology

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Abstract

The CRH receptor (CRH-R) is a member of the secretin family of G protein-coupled receptors. Wide expression of CRH-Rs in the central nervous system and periphery ensures that their cognate agonists, the family of CRH-like peptides, are capable of exerting a wide spectrum of actions that underpin their critical role in integrating the stress response and coordinating the activity of fundamental physiological functions, such as the regulation of the cardiovascular system, energy balance, and homeostasis. Two types of mammal CRH-R exist, CRH-R1 and CRH-R2, each with unique splicing patterns and remarkably distinct pharmacological properties, but similar signaling properties, probably reflecting their distinct and sometimes contrasting biological functions. The regulation of CRH-R expression and activity is not fully elucidated, and we only now begin to fully understand the impact on mammalian pathophysiology. The focus of this review is the current and evolving understanding of the molecular mechanisms controlling CRH-R biological activity and functional flexibility. This shows notable tissue-specific characteristics, highlighted by their ability to couple to distinct G proteins and activate tissue-specific signaling cascades. The type of activating agonist, receptor, and target cell appears to play a major role in determining the overall signaling and biological responses in health and disease.

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