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J Neuroendocrinol. 2011 Apr;23(4):320-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2826.2011.02117.x.

Differential effect of prenatal stress on the expression of corticotrophin-releasing hormone and its receptors in the hypothalamus and amygdala in male and female rats.

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1
Department of Pharmacology, Institute of Drug Research, Hebrew University Medical Centre, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem, Israel.

Abstract

The present study examined the effect of prenatal stress in rats from days 13-20 of gestation on anxiogenic behaviour in the elevated plus maze (EPM) together with changes in the gene expression of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), its receptors, CRHR1 and CRHR2, as well as CRH binding protein (CRH-BP) in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and amygdala of their male and female offspring. Both prenatally-stressed (PS) males and females showed heightened anxiety in the EPM. Prenatal stress did not alter the gene expression of CRH or its receptors in the male PVN, although it decreased CRH-BP mRNA, which could augment the activity of free CRH. In the PVN of PS females, there was an increase in the expression of CRH, coupled with a decrease in that of CRHR2 and CRH-BP. These changes are compatible with the greater activation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis to stress in females. Anxiogenic behaviour of PS rats was associated with a reduction of CRHR2 mRNA and of CRH-BP mRNA in the amygdala of males and an increase in CRH mRNA and decrease in CRHR2 mRNA in females. Two hours after acute stress of exposure to the elevated plus maze in which heightened anxiety was manifested, increases were seen only in the amygdala of females in CRH and CRHR1 signalling, whereas CRHR2 mRNA was reduced in both sexes. The data show that both prenatal stress and acute stress in adulthood have a differential sex-dependent effect on the expression of CRH its receptors and binding protein in the PVN and amygdala of rats.

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