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Eur J Pharmacol. 1997 Mar 26;323(1):1-10.

Corticotropin-releasing factor in antinociception and inflammation.

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  • 1Behavioral Pharmacology and Genetics Section, National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.


Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) plays a major role at the level of the hypothalamus and pituitary to control the body's response mechanisms to stressful stimuli. The recent discovery of CRF outside the central nervous system suggests that CRF may well play a similar role in peripheral tissues, most likely in a paracrine manner. While its effects in many other peripheral tissues is not known yet, CRF and its receptors are upregulated in inflammatory pain states pointing to a key role under these circumstances. Indeed, locally expressed CRF seems to act on CRF receptors on immune cells which have migrated into the area of the inflamed tissue, and induce the release of opioid peptides synthesized within these immune cells. These opioids subsequently act on peripheral opioid receptors located on peripheral sensory nerves to inhibit the transmission of painful stimuli. CRF may also affect the inflammatory response; however, these data are still controversial. The peripheral paracrine effects of CRF may be similar to those of hypothalamic CRF, i.e., to counterbalance local stressful events, such as inflammation and pain, so that they do not threaten the homeostasis of the body. Interestingly, CRF-like peptides have been identified not only in mammalians, but also in species such as the frog (Stenzel-Poore et al., 1992, Mol. Endocrinol. 6, 1716) and the teleost fish (Okawara et al., 1988, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 85, 8439) indicating that this is a peptide that has been conserved over a long period (200 million years) across species (Lederis et al., 1990, Prog. Clin. Biol. Res. 342, 467) and that the release of ACTH-like peptides by peptides of the CRF family may represent an ancestral type of stress response (Ottaviani et al., 1992, Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 87, 354; Tran et al., 1990, Gen. Comp. Endocrinol. 78, 351).

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