Inhibition of corticotropin releasing factor expression in the central nucleus of the amygdala attenuates stress-induced behavioral and endocrine responses.
ABSTRACT: Corticotropin releasing factor (CRF) is a primary mediator of endocrine, autonomic and behavioral stress responses. Studies in both humans and animal models have implicated CRF in a wide-variety of psychiatric conditions including anxiety disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, sleep disorders and addiction among others. The central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), a key limbic structure with one of the highest concentrations of CRF-producing cells outside of the hypothalamus, has been implicated in anxiety-like behavior and a number of stress-induced disorders. This study investigated the specific role of CRF in the CeA on both endocrine and behavioral responses to stress. We used RNA Interference (RNAi) techniques to locally and specifically knockdown CRF expression in CeA. Behavior was assessed using the elevated plus maze (EPM) and open field test (OF). Knocking down CRF expression in the CeA had no significant effect on measures of anxiety-like behavior in these tests. However, it did have an effect on grooming behavior, a CRF-induced behavior. Prior exposure to a stressor sensitized an amygdalar CRF effect on stress-induced HPA activation. In these stress-challenged animals silencing CRF in the CeA significantly attenuated corticosterone responses to a subsequent behavioral stressor. Thus, it appears that while CRF projecting from the CeA does not play a significant role in the expression stress-induced anxiety-like behaviors on the EPM and OF it does play a critical role in stress-induced HPA activation.
Project description:We have previously demonstrated that viral-mediated overexpression of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) within the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) reproduces many of the behavioral and endocrine consequences of chronic stress. The present experiment sought to determine whether administration of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram reverses the adverse effects of CeA CRF overexpression. In a 2×2 design, adult male rats received bilateral infusions of a control lentivirus or a lentivirus in which a portion of the CRF promoter is used to drive increased expression of CRF peptide. Four weeks later, rats were then implanted with an Alzet minipump to deliver vehicle or 10mg/kg/day escitalopram for a 4-week period of time. The defensive withdrawal (DW) test of anxiety and the sucrose-preference test (SPT) of anhedonia were performed both before and after pump implantation. Additional post-implant behavioral tests included the elevated plus maze (EPM) and social interaction (SI) test. Following completion of behavioral testing, the dexamethasone/CRF test was performed to assess HPA axis reactivity. Brains were collected and expression of HPA axis-relevant transcripts were measured using in situ hybridization. Amygdalar CRF overexpression increased anxiety-like behavior in the DW test at week eight, which was only partially prevented by escitalopram. In both CRF-overexpressing and control groups, escitalopram decreased hippocampal CRF expression while increasing hypothalamic and hippocampal expression of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). These gene expression changes were associated with a significant decrease in HPA axis reactivity in rats treated with escitalopram. Interestingly, escitalopram increased the rate of weight gain only in rats overexpressing CRF. Overall these data support our hypothesis that amygdalar CRF is critical in anxiety-like behavior; because the antidepressant was unable to reverse behavioral manifestations of CeA CRF-OE. This may be a potential animal model to study treatment-resistant psychopathologies.
Project description:Environmental stress has been demonstrated to increase susceptibility for mood and anxiety disorders, and hyperactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the primary endocrine response to stress, is often observed in these patients. HPA axis activation is initiated by corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) from the hypothalamus, leading to the hypothesis that hypothalamic CRF overexpression contributes to HPA axis hyperactivity in psychiatric patients. In addition, elevated CRF in cerebrospinal fluid is observed in mood and anxiety disorder patients, suggesting that CRF is also being overproduced from extrahypothalamic sources such as the central amygdala (CeA) and overactivity of the amygdala in neuroimaging studies is a consistent finding in anxiety and depression patients. Due to the importance of CRF and the amygdala in the etiology of stress-sensitive psychiatric disorders, the present study sought to further dissect the impact of CRF overexpression (OE) in the amygdala on downstream behavioral, endocrine, and gene-expression changes typically associated with chronic stress. To test the hypothesis that elevated CRF output from the amygdala would reproduce HPA axis hyperactivity and behavioral symptoms of chronic stress, we developed a lentiviral vector in which 3.0kb of the CRF promoter drives overexpression of CRF (LVCRFp3.0CRF). In adult male rats, Experiment-1 examined behavioral consequences of chronic CRF overexpression from the amygdala; the dexamethasone (Dex)/CRF test was used to measure HPA axis reactivity. Experiment-2 focused on HPA axis disruptions; the dexamethasone-suppression and CRF-stimulation tests as well as the Dex/CRF test were used. In both experiments, expression of HPA-axis related transcripts were assessed.
Project description:RATIONALE:Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders in the USA. Characterized by feelings of uncontrollable apprehension, they are accompanied by physical, affective, and behavioral symptoms. The neuropeptide pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) and its receptor PAC1 (PAC1R) are highly expressed in the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA), and they have gained growing attention for their proposed role in mediating the body's response to stress. OBJECTIVES:The aim of this study was to evaluate the anxiogenic effects of PACAP in the CeA and its effects on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Furthermore, the mechanism of action of PACAP in the CeA was investigated. METHODS:PACAP was microinfused into the CeA of rats, and its effects in the elevated plus maze (EPM), the defensive withdrawal tests, and plasma corticosterone levels were evaluated. The ability of the melanocortin receptor antagonist SHU9119 to block PACAP effect in the EPM was assessed. RESULTS:Intra-CeA PACAP exerted a dose-dependent anxiogenic effect and activated the HPA axis. In contrast, PACAP microinfused into the basolateral nucleus of the amygdala (BlA) had no effect. Finally, the anxiogenic effect of intra-CeA PACAP was prevented by SHU9119. CONCLUSIONS:These data prove an anxiogenic role for the PACAP system of the CeA and reveal that the melanocortin receptor 4 (MC4R) system of CeA mediates these effects. Our data provide insights into this neuropeptide system as a mechanism for modulating the behavioral and endocrine response to stress and suggest that dysregulations of this system may contribute to the pathophysiology of anxiety-related disorders.
Project description:In abstinent alcoholics, stress induces negative affect-a response linked to craving and relapse. In rats, repeated stresses at weekly intervals before 5-day ethanol diet sensitize withdrawal-induced anxiety-like behavior ("anxiety") that is blocked by a corticotrophin-releasing factor 1 (CRF-1)-receptor antagonist. Current experiments were performed to identify brain sites that support CRF involvement in stress sensitization of ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety-like behavior. First, different doses of CRF microinjected weekly into the central amygdala (CeA) before ethanol exposure produced a dose-related sensitization of anxiety during ethanol withdrawal. Subsequently, CRF microinjection into the basolateral amygdala, dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), or dorsal bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (d-BNST) also sensitized ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety. In contrast, sensitization of ethanol withdrawal-induced anxiety was not observed after weekly CRF administration into the ventral-BNST, CA1-hippocampal region, or hypothalamic-paraventricular nucleus. Then, experiments documented the CRF receptor subtype responsible for CRF and stress sensitization of withdrawal-induced anxiety. Systemic administration of a CRF-1 receptor antagonist before CRF microinjection into the CeA, DRN, or d-BNST prevented CRF-induced sensitization of anxiety during ethanol withdrawal. Furthermore, repeated microinjections of urocortin-3, a CRF-2 receptor agonist, into the CRF-positive sites did not sensitize anxiety after withdrawal from ethanol. Finally, microinjection of a CRF-1 receptor antagonist into the CeA, DRN, or d-BNST before stress blocked sensitization of anxiety-like behavior induced by the repeated stress/ethanol withdrawal protocol. These results indicate that CRF released by stress acts on CRF-1 receptors within specific brain regions to produce a cumulative adaptation that sensitizes anxiety-like behavior during withdrawal from chronic ethanol exposure.
Project description:Stress is a complex human experience and having both rewarding and aversive motivational properties. The adverse effects of stress are well documented, yet many of underlying mechanisms remain unclear and controversial. Here we report that the anxiogenic properties of stress are encoded by the endogenous opioid peptide dynorphin acting in the basolateral amygdala. Using pharmacological and genetic approaches, we found that the anxiogenic-like effects of Corticotropin Releasing Factor (CRF) were triggered by CRF(1)-R activation of the dynorphin/kappa opioid receptor (KOR) system. Central CRF administration significantly reduced the percent open-arm time in the elevated plus maze (EPM). The reduction in open-arm time was blocked by pretreatment with the KOR antagonist norbinaltorphimine (norBNI), and was not evident in mice lacking the endogenous KOR ligand dynorphin. The CRF(1)-R agonist stressin 1 also significantly reduced open-arm time in the EPM, and this decrease was blocked by norBNI. In contrast, the selective CRF(2)-R agonist urocortin III did not affect open arm time, and mice lacking CRF(2)-R still showed an increase in anxiety-like behavior in response to CRF injection. However, CRF(2)-R knockout animals did not develop CRF conditioned place aversion, suggesting that CRF(1)-R activation may mediate anxiety and CRF(2)-R may encode aversion. Using a phosphoselective antibody (KORp) to identify sites of dynorphin action, we found that CRF increased KORp-immunoreactivity in the basolateral amygdala (BLA) of wildtype, but not in mice pretreated with the selective CRF(1)-R antagonist, antalarmin. Consistent with the concept that acute stress or CRF injection-induced anxiety was mediated by dynorphin release in the BLA, local injection of norBNI blocked the stress or CRF-induced increase in anxiety-like behavior; whereas norBNI injection in a nearby thalamic nucleus did not. The intersection of stress-induced CRF and the dynorphin/KOR system in the BLA was surprising, and these results suggest that CRF and dynorphin/KOR systems may coordinate stress-induced anxiety behaviors and aversive behaviors via different mechanisms.
Project description:In the central amygdala (CeA), ethanol acts via corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) type 1 receptors to enhance GABA release. Amygdala CRF mediates anxiety associated with stress and drug dependence, and it regulates ethanol intake. Because mutant mice that lack PKCepsilon exhibit reduced anxiety-like behavior and alcohol consumption, we investigated whether PKCepsilon lies downstream of CRF(1) receptors in the CeA. Compared with PKCepsilon(+/+) CeA neurons, PKCepsilon(-/-) neurons showed increased GABAergic tone due to enhanced GABA release. CRF and ethanol stimulated GABA release in the PKCepsilon(+/+) CeA, but not in the PKCepsilon(-/-) CeA. A PKCepsilon-specific inhibitor blocked both CRF- and ethanol-induced GABA release in the PKCepsilon(+/+) CeA, confirming findings in the PKCepsilon(-/-) CeA. These results identify a PKCepsilon signaling pathway in the CeA that is activated by CRF(1) receptor stimulation, mediates GABA release at nerve terminals, and regulates anxiety and alcohol consumption.
Project description:Caffeine is a commonly used psychoactive substance and consumption by children and adolescents continues to rise. Here, we examine the lasting effects of adolescent caffeine consumption on anxiety-related behaviors and several neuroendocrine measures in adulthood. Adolescent male Sprague-Dawley rats consumed caffeine (0.3g/L) for 28 consecutive days from postnatal day 28 (P28) to P55. Age-matched control rats consumed water. Behavioral testing for anxiety-related behavior began in adulthood (P62) 7 days after removal of caffeine. Adolescent caffeine consumption enhanced anxiety-related behavior in an open field, social interaction test, and elevated plus maze. Similar caffeine consumption in adult rats did not alter anxiety-related behavior after caffeine removal. Characterization of neuroendocrine measures was next assessed to determine whether the changes in anxiety were associated with modifications in the HPA axis. Blood plasma levels of corticosterone (CORT) were assessed throughout the caffeine consumption procedure in adolescent rats. Adolescent caffeine consumption elevated plasma CORT 24h after initiation of caffeine consumption that normalized over the course of the 28-day consumption procedure. CORT levels were also elevated 24h after caffeine removal and remained elevated for 7 days. Despite elevated basal CORT in adult rats that consumed caffeine during adolescence, the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and CORT response to placement on an elevated pedestal (a mild stressor) was significantly blunted. Lastly, we assessed changes in basal and stress-induced c-fos and corticotropin-releasing factor (Crf) mRNA expression in brain tissue collected at 7 days withdrawal from adolescent caffeine. Adolescent caffeine consumption increased basal c-fos mRNA in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus. Adolescent caffeine consumption had no other effects on the basal or stress-induced c-fos mRNA changes. Caffeine consumption during adolescence increased basal Crf mRNA in the central nucleus of the amygdala, but no additional effects of stress or caffeine consumption were observed in other brain regions. Together these findings suggest that adolescent caffeine consumption may increase vulnerability to psychiatric disorders including anxiety-related disorders, and this vulnerability may result from dysregulation of the neuroendocrine stress response system.
Project description:Anxiety disorders and nicotine use are significant contributors to global morbidity and mortality as independent and comorbid diseases. Early-life stress, potentially via stress-induced hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) dysregulation, can exacerbate both. However, little is known about the factors that predispose individuals to the development of both anxiety disorders and nicotine use. Here, we examined the relationship between anxiety-like behaviors and nicotine responses following adolescent stress. Adolescent male and female BALB/cJ mice were exposed to either chronic variable social stress (CVSS) or control conditions. CVSS consisted of repeated cycles of social isolation and social reorganization. In adulthood, anxiety-like behavior and social avoidance were measured using the elevated plus-maze (EPM) and social approach-avoidance test, respectively. Nicotine responses were assessed with acute effects on body temperature, corticosterone production, locomotor activity, and voluntary oral nicotine consumption. Adolescent stress had sex-dependent effects on nicotine responses and exploratory behavior, but did not affect anxiety-like behavior or social avoidance in males or females. Adult CVSS males exhibited less exploratory behavior, as indicated by reduced exploratory locomotion in the EPM and social approach-avoidance test, compared to controls. Adolescent stress did not affect nicotine-induced hypothermia in either sex, but CVSS males exhibited augmented nicotine-induced locomotion during late adolescence and voluntarily consumed less nicotine during adulthood. Stress effects on male nicotine-induced locomotion were associated with individual differences in exploratory locomotion in the EPM and social approach-avoidance test. Relative to controls, adult CVSS males and females also exhibited reduced corticosterone levels at baseline and adult male CVSS mice exhibited increased corticosterone levels following an acute nicotine injection. Results suggest that the altered nicotine responses observed in CVSS males may be associated with HPA dysregulation. Taken together, adolescent social stress influences later-life nicotine responses and exploratory behavior. However, there is little evidence of an association between nicotine responses and prototypical anxiety-like behavior or social avoidance in BALB/cJ mice.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) mediates anxiogenic responses by activating CRF type 1 (CRF1) receptors in limbic brain regions. Anxiety is further modulated by the endogenous cannabinoid (eCB) system that attenuates the synaptic effects of stress. In the amygdala, acute stress activates the enzymatic clearance of the eCB N-arachidonoylethanolamine via fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), although it is unclear whether chronic dysregulation of CRF systems induces maladaptive changes in amygdalar eCB signaling. Here, we used genetically selected Marchigian Sardinian P (msP) rats carrying an innate overexpression of CRF1 receptors to study the role of constitutive upregulation in CRF systems on amygdalar eCB function and persistent anxiety-like effects. METHODS:We applied behavioral, pharmacological, and biochemical methods to broadly characterize anxiety-like behaviors and amygdalar eCB clearance enzymes in msP versus nonselected Wistar rats. Subsequent studies examined the influence of dysregulated CRF and FAAH systems in altering excitatory transmission in the central amygdala (CeA). RESULTS:msPs display an anxious phenotype accompanied by elevations in amygdalar FAAH activity and reduced dialysate N-arachidonoylethanolamine levels in the CeA. Elevations in CRF-CRF1 signaling dysregulate FAAH activity, and this genotypic difference is normalized with pharmacological blockade of CRF1 receptors. msPs also exhibit elevated baseline glutamatergic transmission in the CeA, and dysregulated CRF-FAAH facilitates stress-induced increases in glutamatergic activity. Treatment with an FAAH inhibitor relieves sensitized glutamatergic responses in msPs and attenuates the anxiety-like phenotype. CONCLUSIONS:Pathological anxiety and stress hypersensitivity are driven by constitutive increases in CRF1 signaling that dysregulate N-arachidonoylethanolamine signaling mechanisms and reduce neuronal inhibitory control of CeA glutamatergic synapses.
Project description:Central amygdala (CeA) neurons that produce corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) regulate anxiety and fear learning. These CeACRF neurons release GABA and several neuropeptides predicted to play important yet opposing roles in these behaviors. We dissected the relative roles of GABA, CRF, dynorphin, and neurotensin in CeACRF neurons in anxiety and fear learning by disrupting their expression using RNAi in male rats. GABA, but not CRF, dynorphin, or neurotensin, regulates baseline anxiety-like behavior. In contrast, chemogenetic stimulation of CeACRF neurons evokes anxiety-like behavior dependent on CRF and dynorphin, but not neurotensin. Finally, knockdown of CRF and dynorphin impairs fear learning, whereas knockdown of neurotensin enhances it. Our results demonstrate distinct behavioral roles for GABA, CRF, dynorphin, and neurotensin in a subpopulation of CeA neurons. These results highlight the importance of considering the repertoire of signaling molecules released from a given neuronal population when studying the circuit basis of behavior.