18 July 2003
Urocortin, Paraventricular nucleus, Locus coeruleus, Stress, Immobilization, Water deprivation, Adrenalectomy, Corticotropin-releasing hormone receptors, In situ hybridization, Corticotropin, Vasopressin
Urocortin II (Ucn II) is a novel corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)-related peptide discovered as a selective agonist for type-2 CRH receptor. In the rat or mouse brain, Ucn II mRNA shows weak expression mainly in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and the locus coeruleus (LC). Understanding the regulation of Ucn II mRNA expression under varying conditions provides new insights into central stress response. We examined expression of Ucn II mRNA in the PVN and LC following immobilization stress, water deprivation, and adrenalectomy. Rats subjected to immobilization stress exhibited a dramatic induction of Ucn II mRNA expression in the parvocellular part of the PVN at the end of 2 h of immobilization. In contrast, water deprivation for 3 days induced Ucn II mRNA expression mainly in the magnocellular part of the PVN. Although water-deprived rats showed a marked decrease in their food intake, pair-fed rats failed to alter PVN Ucn II mRNA expression, suggesting that osmotic stimuli per se, but not reduced food consumption during water deprivation, caused Ucn II mRNA induction in the magnocellular part of the PVN. Adrenalectomized rats failed to show an increase in Ucn II mRNA in the PVN when compared to sham-operated rats. Double-label in situ hybridization revealed colocalization of Ucn II mRNA in approximately 45% of the CRH mRNA-expressing cells in the parvocellular part of the PVN following immobilization, or colocalization in most of the vasopressin mRNA-expressing cells in the magnocellular part of the PVN following water deprivation. In the LC, no induction of Ucn II mRNA was observed in any of the three experimental conditions, indicating that the regulation of Ucn II mRNA expression was site-specific. The results show a stressor-specific regulation of Ucn II mRNA expression in the PVN and raise the possibility that Ucn II mRNA plays a modulatory role in stress-induced alteration of anterior and posterior pituitary function, depending on the type of stress.