HPA function in adolescence: Role of sex hormones in its regulation and the enduring consequences of exposure to stressors

Behavioural Neuroscience, Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology, Brock University, St Catharines ON, Canada.
Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior (Impact Factor: 2.78). 03/2007; 86(2):220-33. DOI: 10.1016/j.pbb.2006.07.012
Source: PubMed


The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is one of the physiological systems involved in coping with stressors. There are functional shifts in the HPA axis and its regulation by sex hormones over the lifespan that allow the animal to meet the challenges of the internal and external environment that are specific to each stage of development. Sex differences in HPA function emerge over adolescence, a phenomenon reflecting the concomitant initiation of regulatory effects of sex hormones. The focus of this review is recent research on differences between adolescents and adults in HPA function and the enduring effects of exposure to stressors in adolescence. During adolescence, HPA function is characterized by a prolonged activation in response to stressors compared to adulthood, which may render ongoing development of the brain vulnerable. Although research has been scarce, there is a growing evidence that exposure to stressors in adolescence may alter behavioural responses to drugs and cognitive performance in adulthood. However, the effects reported appear to be stressor-specific and sex-specific. Such research may contribute toward understanding the increased risk for drug abuse and psychopathology that occurs over adolescence in people.

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    • "Interestingly, when glucocorticoid negative feedback was already lost in Sim1Cre GRe3D mice, the difference between sexes at circadian peak is also lost; suggesting perhaps that the function of estradiol may also depend on PVN GR availability. There may also be an influence of CBG which binds to circulating glucocorticoids and regulates its bioavailability (Mattos et al., 2013), and is expressed more in females than males (Mataradze et al., 1992; McCormick & Mathews, 2007; Tinnikov, 1999). Interactions between sex hormones, CBG and GR may therefore contribute to the differences observed in our studies. "
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    ABSTRACT: Glucocorticoid receptors (GR) in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN) are important regulators of negative feedback regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Previous evaluation of endogenous PVN GR function in adult mice demonstrated that mice with loss of GR exon 3 in the PVN (Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ) have a hyperactive HPA axis, growth impairment and metabolic disruptions. Here, we hypothesized that lack of negative feedback inhibition of the HPA axis through PVN GR, as demonstrated through loss of PVN GR early in life, will have developmental-stage-specific consequences. Immunofluorescence revealed that Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ mice display PVN GR loss as early as post-natal day 2 compared to control mice. Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ mice compared to controls also displayed increased corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) mRNA in the PVN at post-natal day 10, as shown by in situ hybridization. Corticosterone radioimmunoassay revealed that the disruptions in PVN GR and CRH expression led to elevated basal corticosterone secretion in male Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ mice by early adolescence and increased stress-induced (restraint) corticosterone secretion in late adolescence into adulthood. In comparison, female Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ mice did not display corticosterone disruption until adulthood. Circadian rhythmicity of corticosterone secretion was normal for male and female mice at all age groups regardless of genotype with one exception. In late adolescence, female Sim1Cre-GRe3Δ mice had disrupted circadian corticosterone secretion due to significantly elevated circulating levels at nadir. We conclude that PVN GR function matures at an earlier developmental time point in male than in female mice and thus leads to later differential stress responsiveness between sexes.
    Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands) 06/2015; DOI:10.3109/10253890.2015.1046832 · 2.72 Impact Factor
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    • "Future investigation is needed to reveal whether this is only the case under basal conditions. Studies of chronic stress models in female mice at least illustrate regulatory effects of oestrogens and androgens on HPA axis activity and behaviour [52]–[54]. Therefore, even though no interaction of FKBP51 in female 51KOs is indicated in the present study, it is possible that mediating effects of female gonadal hormones in absence of FKBP51 are present under other conditions, namely after exposure to chronic stress. "
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    ABSTRACT: Psychiatric disorders such as depressive disorders and posttraumatic stress disorder are a major disease burden worldwide and have a higher incidence in women than in men. However, the underlying mechanism responsible for the sex-dependent differences is not fully understood. Besides environmental factors such as traumatic life events or chronic stress, genetic variants contribute to the development of such diseases. For instance, variations in the gene encoding the FK506 binding protein 51 (FKBP51) have been repeatedly associated with mood and anxiety. FKBP51 is a negative regulator of the glucocorticoid receptor and thereby of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis that also interacts with other steroid hormone receptors such as the progesterone and androgen receptors. Thus, the predisposition of women to psychiatric disorders and the interaction of female hormones with FKBP51 and the glucocorticoid receptor implicate a possible difference in the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in female FKBP51 knockout (51KO) mice. Therefore, we investigated neuroendocrine, behavioural and physiological alterations relevant to mood disorders in female 51KO mice. Female 51KOs and wild type littermates were subjected to various behavioural tests, including the open field, elevated plus maze and forced swim test. The neuroendocrine profile was investigated under basal conditions and in response to an acute stressor. Furthermore, we analysed the mRNA expression levels of the glucocorticoid receptor and corticotrophin release hormone in different brain regions. Overall, female 51KO mice did not display any overt behavioural phenotype under basal conditions, but showed a reduced basal hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis activity, a blunted response to, and an enhanced recovery from, acute stress. These characteristics strongly overlap with previous studies in male 51KO mice indicating that FKBP51 shapes the behavioural and neuroendocrine phenotype independent of the sex of the individual.
    PLoS ONE 04/2014; 9(4):e95796. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0095796 · 3.23 Impact Factor
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    • "Puberty is marked by many changes in neuroendocrine processes , resulting in significant and extensive influences on an organism's physiological and neurobehavioral function (Grumbach, 2002; Sisk and Foster, 2004; Romeo, 2005). One such pubertal-related change is the substantial shift in stress reactivity exhibited by the hypothalamic—pituitary—adrenal (HPA) axis, with peripubertal animals showing an extended hormonal stress response compared to adults (McCormick and Mathews, 2007; Romeo, 2010a,b). For example , following a variety of acute stressors, such as intermittent foot shock, ether inhalation, or restraint, prepubertal male and female rats (i.e., approximately 30 days of age) display adrenal corticosterone responses, both total and free, that last significantly longer ($40 min) than those observed in adults (i.e., greater than 65 days of age; Goldman et al., 1973; Vazquez and Akil, 1993; Romeo et al., 2004a,b,2006a,b; Foilb et al., 2011; Lui et al., 2012). "
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    ABSTRACT: Studies have indicated significant pubertal-related differences in hormonal stress reactivity. We report here that prepubertal (30d) male rats display a more protracted stress-induced corticosterone response than adults (70d), despite showing relatively similar levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Additionally, we show that adrenal expression of the ACTH receptor, melanocortin 2 receptor (Mc2r), is higher in prepubertal compared to adult animals, and that expression of melanocortin receptor accessory protein (Mrap), a molecule that chaperones MC2R to the cell surface, is greater in prepubertal males following stress. Given that these data suggest a pubertal shift in adrenal sensitivity to ACTH, we directly tested this possibility by injecting prepubertal and adult males with 6.25 or 9.375 μg/kg of exogenous rat ACTH and measured their hormone levels 30 and 60 min post-injection. As these doses resulted in different circulating levels of ACTH at these two ages, we performed regression analyses to assess the relationship between circulating ACTH and corticosterone concentrations. We found no difference between the ages in the correlation between ACTH and corticosterone levels at the 30 min time point. However, 60 min following the ACTH injection, we found prepubertal rats had significantly higher corticosterone concentrations at lower levels of ACTH compared to adults. These data suggest that prolonged exposure to ACTH leads to greater corticosterone responsiveness prior to puberty, and indicate that changes in adrenal sensitivity to ACTH may, in part, contribute to the protracted hormonal stress response in prepubertal rats.
    Psychoneuroendocrinology 04/2014; 42. DOI:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.01.016 · 4.94 Impact Factor
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