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Endocrinology. 1995 Dec;136(12):5336-42.

A long-term increase in basal levels of corticosterone and a decrease in corticosteroid-binding globulin after acute stressor exposure.

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Department of Psychology, University of Colorado-Boulder 80309, USA.


Adrenal glucocorticoids play an important role in mediating many of the behavioral and physiological effects of exposure to stressors. Focus has been primarily on the acute stress-induced rise in glucocorticoids [corticosterone (CORT) in the rat]. There are reports, however, that exposure to chronic stressors can produce an increase in basal CORT and a decrease in corticotropin-binding globulin (CBG). These changes occur subsequent to the stress-induced rise in CORT. The following experiments examined whether exposure to an acute stressor (100 5-sec inescapable tail shocks; IS) could also produce long term changes in basal CORT and CBG. We report that a single session of IS results in an increase in basal total serum CORT that persists 48-96 h after IS termination. The increase is present only at the diurnal trough (morning). CBG levels ae also decreased for 24-48 h. The decrease is present at both the diurnal peak (evening) as well as the trough (morning). These changes result in an increase in the percent and amount of biologically active CORT (unbound or free). Thus, glucocorticoid-sensitive targets are exposed to high levels of free CORT for several days after IS termination. The long term increase in free CORT reported here may play an important role in mediating some of the effects produced by IS as well as those produced by other acute stressors.

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