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Mol Endocrinol. 2013 Oct;27(10):1655-65. doi: 10.1210/me.2013-1187. Epub 2013 Aug 26.

Disrupting hypothalamic glucocorticoid receptors causes HPA axis hyperactivity and excess adiposity.

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  • 1MD/PhD, 3333 Burnet Avenue, ML 7009, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229.


The glucocorticoid receptor (GR) regulates hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity during the stress response. The paraventricular nucleus (PVN) is a major site of negative feedback to coordinate the degree of the HPA axis activity with the magnitude of the exposed stressor. To define the function of endogenous PVN GR, we used Cre-loxP technology to disrupt different GR exons in Sim1-expressing neurons of the hypothalamus. GR exon 2-deleted mice (Sim1Cre-GRe2Δ) demonstrated 43% loss of PVN GR compared with an 87% GR loss in exon 3-deleted mice (Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ). Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ mice display stunted growth at birth but develop obesity in adulthood and display impaired stress-induced glucose release. We observed elevated basal and stress-induced corticosterone levels in Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ mice, compared with control and Sim1Cre-GRe2Δ mice, and impaired dexamethasone suppression, indicating an inability to negatively regulate corticosterone secretion. Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ mice also showed increased CRH mRNA in the PVN, increased basal plasma ACTH levels, and reduced locomotor behavior. We observed no differences in Sim1Cre-GRe2Δ mice compared with control mice in any measure. Our behavioral data suggest that GR deletion in Sim1-expressing neurons has no effect on anxiety or despair-like behavior under basal conditions. We conclude that loss of PVN GR results in severe HPA axis hyperactivity and Cushing's syndrome-like phenotype but does not affect anxiety and despair-like behaviors.

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