Send to

Choose Destination
J Neurosci. 2019 Jan 16;39(3):472-484. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1035-18.2018. Epub 2018 Nov 26.

α2A-Adrenergic Receptor Activation Decreases Parabrachial Nucleus Excitatory Drive onto BNST CRF Neurons and Reduces Their Activity In Vivo.

Author information

Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research.
Vanderbilt Brain Institute.
Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics.
Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics,
Department of Neural and Behavioral Sciences, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033-0850.
Vanderbilt Center for Addiction Research,
Vanderbilt J. F. Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee 37232-0615.
Department of Pharmacology, Vanderbilt University, and.
Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee 37232-0615.


Stress contributes to numerous psychiatric disorders. Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) signaling and CRF neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST) drive negative affective behaviors, thus agents that decrease activity of these cells may be of therapeutic interest. Here, we show that acute restraint stress increases cFos expression in CRF neurons in the mouse dorsal BNST, consistent with a role for these neurons in stress-related behaviors. We find that activation of α2A-adrenergic receptors (ARs) by the agonist guanfacine reduced cFos expression in these neurons both in stressed and unstressed conditions. Further, we find that α- and β-ARs differentially regulate excitatory drive onto these neurons. Pharmacological and channelrhodopsin-assisted mapping experiments suggest that α2A-ARs specifically reduce excitatory drive from parabrachial nucleus (PBN) afferents onto CRF neurons. Given that the α2A-AR is a Gi-linked GPCR, we assessed the impact of activating the Gi-coupled DREADD hM4Di in the PBN on restraint stress regulation of BNST CRF neurons. CNO activation of PBN hM4Di reduced stress-induced Fos in BNST Crh neurons. Further, using Prkcd as an additional marker of BNST neuronal identity, we uncovered a female-specific upregulation of the coexpression of Prkcd/Crh in BNST neurons following stress, which was prevented by ovariectomy. These findings show that stress activates BNST CRF neurons, and that α2A-AR activation suppresses the in vivo activity of these cells, at least in part by suppressing excitatory drive from PBN inputs onto CRF neurons.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Stress is a major variable contributing to mood disorders. Here, we show that stress increases activation of BNST CRF neurons that drive negative affective behavior. We find that the clinically well tolerated α2A-AR agonist guanfacine reduces activity of these cells in vivo, and reduces excitatory PBN inputs onto these cells ex vivo Additionally, we uncover a novel sex-dependent coexpression of Prkcd with Crh in female BNST neurons after stress, an effect abolished by ovariectomy. These results demonstrate input-specific interactions between norepinephrine and CRF, and point to an action by which guanfacine may reduce negative affective responses.


BNST; CRF; norepinephrine; parabrachial; stress

[Available on 2019-07-16]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center