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Front Neuroendocrinol. 2008 May;29(2):268-72. Epub 2007 Oct 24.

Corticosteroid hormones in the central stress response: quick-and-slow.

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  • 1Department of Medical Pharmacology, LACDR, Leiden University Medical Center, PO Box 9502, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands.


Recent evidence shows that corticosteroid hormones exert rapid non-genomic effects on neurons in the hypothalamus and the hippocampal CA1 region. The latter depend on classical mineralocorticoid receptors which are accessible from the outside of the plasma membrane and display a 10-fold lower affinity for corticosterone than the nuclear version involved in neuroprotection. Consequently, this 'membrane' receptor could play an important role while corticosteroid levels are high, i.e. during the initial phase of the stress response. We propose that during this phase corticosterone promotes hippocampal excitability and amplifies the effect of other stress hormones. These permissive non-genomic effects may contribute to fast behavioral effects and encoding of stress-related information. The fast effects are complemented by slower glucocorticoid receptor-mediated effects which facilitate suppression of temporary raised excitability, recovery from the stressful experience and storage of information for future use.

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