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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999 Oct 20;885:312-28.

Corticotropin releasing factor receptors and their ligand family.

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Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The CRF receptors belong to the VIP/GRF/PTH family of G-protein coupled receptors whose actions are mediated through activation of adenylate cyclase. Two CRF receptors, encoded by distinct genes, CRF-R1 and CRF-R2, and that can exist in two alternatively spliced forms, have been cloned. The type-1 receptor is expressed in many areas of the rodent brain, as well as in the pituitary, gonads, and skin. In the rodent, one splice variant of the type-2 receptor, CRF-R2 alpha, is expressed mainly in the brain, whereas the other variant, CRF-R2 beta, is found not only in the CNS, but also in cardiac and skeletal muscle, epididymis, and the gastrointestinal tract. The poor correlation between the sites of expression of CRF-R2 and CRF, as well as the relatively low affinity of CRF for CRF-R2, suggested the presence of another ligand, whose existence was confirmed in our cloning of urocortin. This CRF-like peptide is found not only in brain, but also in peripheral sites, such as lymphocytes. The broad tissue distribution of CRF receptors and their ligands underscores the important role of this system in maintenance of homeostasis. Functional studies of the two receptor types reveal differences in the specificity for CRF and related ligands. On the basis of its greater affinity for urocortin, in comparison with CRF, as well as its brain distribution, CRF-R2 may be the cognate receptor for urocortin. Mutagenesis studies of CRF receptors directed toward understanding the basis for their specificity, provide insight into the structural determinants for hormone-receptor recognition and signal transduction.

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