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Brain Res Bull. 1994;35(5-6):581-7.

Corticotropin-releasing factor neurotransmission in locus coeruleus: a possible site of antidepressant action.

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Department of Mental Health Science, Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, PA 19102-1192.


Hypersecretion of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), has been hypothesized to occur in depression. Because CRF may serve as a neurotransmitter in the locus coeruleus (LC), it was proposed that CRF hypersecretion in the LC is responsible for some characteristics of depression, and that antidepressants act by interfering with CRF neurotransmission in the LC. To test this hypothesis, the acute and chronic effects of four antidepressants and cocaine were characterized on LC spontaneous and sensory-evoked discharge, LC activation by a stressor that requires CRF release, and LC activation by exogenously administered CRF. None of the antidepressants or cocaine altered LC activation by intracerebroventricularly administered CRF (3.0 microgram) after chronic administration. However, chronic administration of desmethylimipramine and mianserin inhibited LC activation by a hypotensive stress that requires endogenous CRF release, suggesting that they decrease CRF release in the LC. Chronic administration of sertraline and phenelzine altered LC responses to repeated sciatic nerve stimulation in a manner opposite to the effect produced by CRF, suggesting that these drugs may functionally antagonize CRF actions in the LC. Cocaine did not appear to interfere with CRF actions in the LC. In conclusion, chronic administration of antidepressants may have the potential to interfere with CRF neurotransmission in the LC.

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