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Brain Behav Immun. 2010 Aug;24(6):908-18. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2010.02.008. Epub 2010 Feb 26.

Corticosterone and cortisol binding sites in plasma, immune organs and brain of developing zebra finches: intracellular and membrane-associated receptors.

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Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.


Glucocorticoids (GCs) affect the development of both the immune and nervous systems. To do so, GCs bind to intracellular receptors, mineralocorticoid receptors (MR) and glucocorticoid receptors (GR). In addition, GCs bind to membrane-associated corticosteroid receptors (mCR). Two well-known GCs are corticosterone and cortisol. Whereas corticosterone is the primary GC in zebra finch plasma, cortisol is the primary GC in zebra finch lymphoid organs and is also present in the brain and plasma during development. Here, we characterized binding sites for corticosterone and cortisol in plasma, liver, lymphoid organs, and brain of developing zebra finches. In tissues, we examined both intracellular and membrane-associated binding sites. For intracellular receptors, there were MR-like sites and GR-like sites, which differentially bound corticosterone and cortisol in a tissue-specific manner. For mCR, we found little evidence for membrane-associated receptors in immune organs, but this could be due to the small size of immune organs. Interestingly, cortisol, but not corticosterone, showed a low amount of specific binding to bursa of Fabricius membranes. For neural membranes, corticosterone bound to one site with low affinity but a relatively high B(max), and in contrast, cortisol bound to one site with high affinity but a lower B(max). Our results indicate that intracellular and membrane-associated receptors differentially bind corticosterone and cortisol suggesting that corticosterone and cortisol might have different roles in immune and nervous system development.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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