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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1993 Oct 29;697:173-88.

The locus coeruleus as a site for integrating corticotropin-releasing factor and noradrenergic mediation of stress responses.

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Department of Mental Health Sciences, Hahnemann University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102-1192.


Anatomic and electrophysiologic studies have provided evidence that CRF meets some of the criteria as a neurotransmitter in the noradrenergic nucleus, the locus coeruleus (LC), although some of the criteria have yet to be satisfied. Thus, immunohistochemical findings suggest that CRF innervates the LC, but this must be confirmed at the ultrastructural level. CRF alters discharge activity of LC neurons and these effects are mimicked by some stressors. Moreover, the effects of hemodynamic stress on LC activity are prevented by a CRF antagonist. However, it has not been demonstrated that stimulation of CRF neurons that project to the LC activates the LC or that the effects of such stimulation are prevented by a CRF antagonist. The role of CRF in LC activation by stressors other than hemodynamic stress needs to be determined. It could be predicted that the effects of CRF neurotransmission in the LC during stress would enhance information processing concerning the stressor or stimuli related to the stressor by LC target neurons. One consequence of this appears to be increased arousal. Although this may be adaptive in the response to an acute challenge, it could be predicted that chronic CRF release in the LC would result in persistently elevated LC discharge and norepinephrine release in targets. This could be associated with hyperarousal and loss of selective attention as occurs in certain psychiatric diseases. Manipulation of endogenous CRF systems may be a novel way in which to treat psychiatric diseases characterized by these maladaptive effects.

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