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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2008 Oct;33(9):1173-82. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.05.014. Epub 2008 Aug 28.

Glucocorticoid signaling and exercise-induced downregulation of the mineralocorticoid receptor in the induction of adult mouse dentate neurogenesis by treadmill running.

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Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, National Cheng Kung University, Tainan, Taiwan.


Physical exercise is known to promote adult neurogenesis, although the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Glucocorticoid (corticosterone in rodents) is a factor that is known to affect neurogenesis. As physical exercise modulates corticosterone secretion, we hypothesized that corticosterone signaling is involved in exercise-induced adult neurogenesis. We chose treadmill running (TR) to accurately define the intensity and duration of exercise. Our results showed that 5 weeks of TR increased the doublecortin (DCX)-positive neuronal progenitor cells (NPCs) in adult hippocampus and transiently increased the serum corticosterone level at the end of the TR protocol. This protocol reduced the levels of hippocampal mineralocorticoid receptor (MR); however, glucocorticoid receptor levels were unaltered. We then investigated whether reducing corticosterone levels by bilateral adrenalectomy (ADX) attenuated the TR-enhanced adult neurogenesis. Our results showed that ADX not only blocked the TR-induced downregulation of MR, but also reduced the number of TR-enhanced NPCs. In order to examine the role of MR downregulation in TR-induced adult neurogenesis, animals were treated repeatedly with a selective MR antagonist, spironolactone, for 3 weeks. The results revealed that spironolactone increased the number of spontaneously occurring and TR-induced NPC in the dentate area. Further analysis revealed that spironolactone treatment did not alter precursor cell proliferation, but increased the number of DCX-positive NPCs, suggesting that blockage of MR signaling either facilitates the differentiation of progenitor cells towards neurons and/or enhances the survival of NPCs. Taken together, the data indicated that induction of NPCs in the dentate area of adult hippocampus by TR is partly due to the downregulation of glucocorticoid/MR signaling, which subsequently enhances differentiation along a neuronal lineage and/or NPC survival.

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