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Biol Psychiatry. 2011 Nov 15;70(10):928-36. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.07.023. Epub 2011 Sep 10.

FK506 binding protein 5 shapes stress responsiveness: modulation of neuroendocrine reactivity and coping behavior.

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Research Group of Psychoneuroendocrinology, Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Munich, Germany.



The Hsp90 cochaperone FK506 binding protein 5 (FKBP5) is an established regulator of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), and numerous genetic studies have linked it to stress-related diseases such as major depression or posttraumatic stress disorder. However, translational studies including genetic animal models are lacking.


Mice deficient of FKBP5 were generated and analyzed in comparison with wildtype littermates. They were subjected to several test paradigms characterizing their emotionality, stress reactivity, and coping behavior as well as hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis function and regulation. Moreover, protein expression of GR and FKBP5 was determined in different brain structures 8 days after stress exposure. The combined dexamethasone/corticotropin-releasing hormone test was performed both in mice and healthy human subjects of different FKBP5 genotypes. The GR function was evaluated by reporter gene assays.


Under basal conditions, deletion of FKBP5 did not change exploratory drive, locomotor activity, anxiety-related behavior, stress-coping, or depression-like behavior. After exposure to different acute stressors of sufficient intensity, however, it led to a more active coping behavior. Moreover, loss of FKBP5 decreased hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis reactivity and GR expression changes in response to stressors. In mice and humans, the FKBP5 genotype also determined the outcome of the dexamethasone/corticotropin-releasing hormone test.


This study in mice and humans presents FKBP5 as a decisive factor for the physiological stress response, shaping neuroendocrine reactivity as well as coping behavior. This lends strong support to the concept emerging from human studies of FKBP5 as important factor governing gene-environment interactions relevant for the etiology of affective disorders.

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