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Brain Res. 2001 Mar 30;896(1-2):130-6.

Glucocorticoids and serotonin alter glucocorticoid receptor (GR) but not mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) mRNA levels in fetal mouse hippocampal neurons, in vitro.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Medical Sciences Building, 1 Kings College Circle, Ontario, M5S 1A8, Toronto, Canada.


Studies utilizing rats and guinea pigs have demonstrated that the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis can be programmed by glucocorticoids during fetal life. Such programming is believed to occur, at least partially, at the level of hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors (GR) and mineralocorticoid receptors (MR). Studies have also demonstrated that serotonin up regulates GR levels within the developing hippocampus. However, the cell type in which these changes take place has not been determined. We hypothesized that dexamethasone, corticosterone and serotonin exposure modify GR and MR mRNA levels in fetal mouse hippocampal cultures, and that these effects are confined to neurons. Cultures were derived from CD1 mouse fetuses on day 18 of gestation (n=8 dams). Fetal hippocampi were dissected, then mechanically and chemically dispersed. Cultures were exposed to dexamethasone, corticosterone or serotonin (1-100 nM) for 4 days. Levels of GR and MR mRNA were examined by in situ hybridization and high-resolution silver emulsion autoradiography. Four days exposure to dexamethasone or corticosterone (10 or 100 nM) decreased levels of GR mRNA within neurons. There was no significant change in MR mRNA in either experiment. Exposure to serotonin (100 nM) significantly increased expression of GR mRNA in hippocampal neurons. MR mRNA levels were unaffected by serotonin treatment. Dexamethasone, corticosterone or serotonin exposure did not alter expression of GR mRNA within glial cells. We conclude that synthetic and endogenous glucocorticoids, as well as serotonin, can influence neuronal levels of GR mRNA during hippocampal development. However, whether these effects are permanent remains to be determined.

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