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Arch Physiol Biochem. 2002 Apr;110(1-2):74-89.

Acute and chronic regulation of pituitary receptors for vasopressin and corticotropin releasing hormone.

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  • 1Department of Zoology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.


At least two hypothalamic peptides, corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) and vasopressin (VP), are important in regulating adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) release from the anterior pituitary. Both are secreted in a pulsatile manner and stimulate ACTH secretion by interacting with G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), namely the type 1 CRH receptor and V1b receptor, respectively. Repeated or prolonged stimulation with either peptide can cause reduced ACTH responsiveness or desensitisation, both in vivo and in vitro. Desensitisation of perifused sheep anterior pituitary cells to VP was found to be rapid and occurred following treatment with 5 nM VP for 5 min. This is within the range of concentrations and durations of VP pulses seen in sheep portal blood during acute stress. In contrast, significant desensitisation of the ACTH response to CRH required pre-treatment for longer than 25 min with a CRH concentration of 1 nM, suggesting that endogenous pulses may not elicit desensitisation. Although rapid GPCR desensitisation involves uncoupling of receptors from their G proteins, commonly mediated by receptor phosphorylation, and internalisation of receptors, desensitisation of neither the CRH nor VP receptor was mediated by PKA or PKC, respectively. Desensitisation of the response to VP was found to be dependent upon receptor internalisation, and resensitisation could be delayed by treatment with a protein phosphatase 2B inhibitor. The rapid kinetics of desensitisation of the ACTH response to VP suggest that this process is important in regulating the response to acute rather than chronic stress. If, as has been suggested, CRH acts in a permissive way to set corticotrope gain, desensitisation to CRH could also be important in long term regulation of ACTH secretion.

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