Excess Corticotropin Releasing Hormone-Binding Protein in the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Transgenic Mice

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Abstract

Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is the primary hypothalamic releasing factor that mediates the mammalian stress response. The CRH-binding protein (CRH-BP) is secreted from corticotropes, the pituitary CRH target cells, suggesting that the CRH-BP may modulate hypothalamicpituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity by preventing CRH receptor stimulation. Transgenic mice were generated that constitutively express elevated levels of CRH-BP in the anterior pituitary gland. RNA and protein analyses confirmed the elevation of pituitary CRH-BP. Basal plasma concentrations of corticosterone and adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) are unchanged, and a normal pattern of increased corticosterone and ACTH was observed after restraint stress. However, CRH and vasopressin (AVP) mRNA levels in the transgenic mice are increased by 82 and 35%, respectively, to compensate for the excess CRH-BP, consistent with the idea that CRH-BP levels are important for homeostasis. The transgenic mice exhibit increased activity in standard behavioral tests, and an altered circadian pattern of food intake which may be due to transgene expression in the brain. Alterations in CRH and AVP in response to elevated pituitary CRH-BP clearly demonstrate that regulation of CRH-BP is important in the function of the HPA axis. (J. Clin. Invest. 1998. 101:1439-1447.)

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