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Endocrinology. 2010 Jun;151(6):2629-40. doi: 10.1210/en.2009-0915. Epub 2010 Apr 2.

GLP-1(7-36)-amide and Exendin-4 stimulate the HPA axis in rodents and humans.

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Laboratory of Endocrinology, Faculty of Biology, University of Vigo, E-36310 Vigo, Spain.


Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) is a potent insulinotropic peptide expressed in the gut and brain, which is secreted in response to food intake. The levels of GLP-1 within the brain have been related to the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and hence, this peptide might mediate some responses to stress. Nevertheless, there is little information regarding the effects of circulating GLP-1 on the neuroendocrine control of HPA activity. Here, we have studied the response of corticoadrenal steroids to the peripheral administration of GLP-1 (7-36)-amide and related peptides [exendin (Ex)-3, Ex-4, and Ex-4(3-39)] in rats, mice, and humans. GLP-1 increases circulating corticosterone levels in a time-dependent manner, both in conscious and anaesthetized rats, and it has also increased aldosterone levels. Moreover, GLP-1 augmented cortisol levels in healthy subjects and diabetes mellitus (DM)-1 patients. The effects of GLP-1/Ex-4 on the HPA axis are very consistent after distinct means of administration (intracerebroventricular, iv, and ip), irrespective of the metabolic state of the animals (fasting or fed ad libitum), and they were reproduced by different peptides in this family, independent of glycaemic changes and their insulinotropic properties. Indeed, these effects were also observed in diabetic subjects (DM-1 patients) and in the DM-1 streptozotocin-rat or DM-2 muscle IGF-I receptor-lysine-arginine transgenic mouse animal models. The mechanisms whereby circulating GLP-1 activates the HPA axis remain to be elucidated, although an increase in ACTH after Ex-4 and GLP-1 administration implicates the central nervous system or a direct effect on the pituitary. Together, these findings suggest that GLP-1 may play an important role in regulating the HPA axis.

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