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      Differential Interactions of Urocortin/Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Peptides with the Blood-Brain Barrier

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          The two newest members of the urocortin (UCN)/corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) family of peptides – UCN II and UCN III – bind to the CRH-2 receptor, suppress feeding, and are expressed in the periphery as well as the brain. We used several sensitive techniques to examine their interactions with the blood-brain barrier (BBB). Of the four known peptides in this family, each interacts with the BBB differently. UCN I barely enters the brain from blood unless its latent saturable influx system is activated by leptin or pretreatment with glucose. However, neither leptin nor glucose affected the entry of intact UCN II. UCN II reached brain paranchyma at a moderate rate that was not self-inhibited or cross-inhibited by UCN/CRH peptides. The apparent, but misleading, rapid influx of UCN III (stresscopin) could be explained by degradation at the BBB itself. Influx of CRH into brain was slower than UCN II but faster than UCN I; it was inhibited by excess CRH but not by excess UCN I, II, III, or leptin. CRH is the only member of this family to have a saturable efflux system out of the brain. Determination of hydrogen bonding, newly applied here to ingestive peptides, was not helpful in explaining these differential interactions of the UCN peptides with the BBB.

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          Most cited references 9

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          Identification of urocortin III, an additional member of the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) family with high affinity for the CRF2 receptor.

          The corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) family of neuropeptides includes the mammalian peptides CRF, urocortin, and urocortin II, as well as piscine urotensin I and frog sauvagine. The mammalian peptides signal through two G protein-coupled receptor types to modulate endocrine, autonomic, and behavioral responses to stress, as well as a range of peripheral (cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and immune) activities. The three previously known ligands are differentially distributed anatomically and have distinct specificities for the two major receptor types. Here we describe the characterization of an additional CRF-related peptide, urocortin III, in the human and mouse. In searching the public human genome databases we found a partial expressed sequence tagged (EST) clone with significant sequence identity to mammalian and fish urocortin-related peptides. By using primers based on the human EST sequence, a full-length human clone was isolated from genomic DNA that encodes a protein that includes a predicted putative 38-aa peptide structurally related to other known family members. With a human probe, we then cloned the mouse ortholog from a genomic library. Human and mouse urocortin III share 90% identity in the 38-aa putative mature peptide. In the peptide coding region, both human and mouse urocortin III are 76% identical to pufferfish urocortin-related peptide and more distantly related to urocortin II, CRF, and urocortin from other mammalian species. Mouse urocortin III mRNA expression is found in areas of the brain including the hypothalamus, amygdala, and brainstem, but is not evident in the cerebellum, pituitary, or cerebral cortex; it is also expressed peripherally in small intestine and skin. Urocortin III is selective for type 2 CRF receptors and thus represents another potential endogenous ligand for these receptors.
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            Urocortin II: a member of the corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) neuropeptide family that is selectively bound by type 2 CRF receptors.

            Here we describe the cloning and initial characterization of a previously unidentified CRF-related neuropeptide, urocortin II (Ucn II). Searches of the public human genome database identified a region with significant sequence homology to the CRF neuropeptide family. By using homologous primers deduced from the human sequence, a mouse cDNA was isolated from whole brain poly(A)(+) RNA that encodes a predicted 38-aa peptide, structurally related to the other known mammalian family members, CRF and Ucn. Ucn II binds selectively to the type 2 CRF receptor (CRF-R2), with no appreciable activity on CRF-R1. Transcripts encoding Ucn II are expressed in discrete regions of the rodent central nervous system, including stress-related cell groups in the hypothalamus (paraventricular and arcuate nuclei) and brainstem (locus coeruleus). Central administration of 1-10 microg of peptide elicits activational responses (Fos induction) preferentially within a core circuitry subserving autonomic and neuroendocrine regulation, but whose overall pattern does not broadly mimic the CRF-R2 distribution. Behaviorally, central Ucn II attenuates nighttime feeding, with a time course distinct from that seen in response to CRF. In contrast to CRF, however, central Ucn II failed to increase gross motor activity. These findings identify Ucn II as a new member of the CRF family of neuropeptides, which is expressed centrally and binds selectively to CRF-R2. Initial functional studies are consistent with Ucn II involvement in central autonomic and appetitive control, but not in generalized behavioral activation.
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              Human stresscopin and stresscopin-related peptide are selective ligands for the type 2 corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor.

              Adaptive stress responses mediated by the endocrine, autonomic, cardiovascular and immune systems are essential for the survival of the individual. Initial stress-induced responses provide a vital short-term metabolic lift, but prolonged or inappropriate exposure to stress can compromise homeostasis thereby leading to disease. This 'fight-or-flight' response is characterized by the activation of the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)-adrenocorticotropin-glucocorticoid axis, mediated by the type 1 CRH receptor. In contrast, the type 2 CRH receptor mediates the stress-coping responses during the recovery phase of stress. We identified human stresscopin (SCP) and stresscopin-related peptide (SRP) as specific ligands for the type 2 CRH receptor. The genes encoding these peptides were expressed in diverse peripheral tissues as well as in the central nervous system. Treatment with SCP or SRP suppressed food intake, delayed gastric emptying and decreased heat-induced edema. Thus SCP and SRP might represent endogenous ligands for maintaining homeostasis after stress, and could allow the design of drugs to ameliorate stress-related diseases.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                June 2002
                07 June 2002
                : 75
                : 6
                : 367-374
                VA Medical Center and Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, La., USA
                59433 Neuroendocrinology 2002;75:367–374
                © 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 6, References: 32, Pages: 8
                Corticotropin Releasing Hormone and Corticotropin


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