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      Adrenocorticotropin Stress Response but Not Glucocorticoid-Negative Feedback Is Altered by Prenatal Morphine Exposure in Adult Male Rats

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          The present study was designed to investigate the effects of prenatal morphine exposure on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis-regulated stress responses by measuring restraint stress-induced changes in the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and corticosterone (CORT) levels. In experiment 1, plasma levels of ACTH and CORT in prenatally morphine-, saline-exposed and control male rats were determined before and at several times after restraint stress. There were no statistically significant differences in plasma ACTH and CORT levels before restraint stress between the groups. However, prenatal morphine exposure dampened the stress-induced increase and spontaneous recovery of ACTH levels after the restraint stress. There were no differences in plasma CORT levels between the three groups either before or at any time after restraint stress. Experiment 2 was designed to investigate the sensitivity of negative feedback of glucocorticoids using the dexamethasone (DEX) suppression test. DEX was administered at different doses (0.001, 0.01, 0.1 and 1.0 mg/kg) and ACTH and CORT plasma levels were measured before and at several times after restraint stress in prenatally morphine- and saline-exposed males. DEX pretreatment eliminated the differences observed in ACTH responses to stress in morphine- and saline-exposed males. DEX pretreatment dose dependently suppressed the restraint stress-induced increased plasma ACTH concentration. In plasma CORT levels, DEX pretreatment dose dependently suppressed the restraint stress-induced increased plasma CORT concentration regardless of prenatal drug exposure. Thus, the present study demonstrates that prenatal morphine exposure alters the ACTH and CORT responses to stress but not the sensitivity of negative feedback of glucocorticoids.

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          Most cited references 27

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          Gonadal steroid hormone receptors and sex differences in the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis.

          The rapid activation of stress-responsive neuroendocrine systems is a basic reaction of animals to perturbations in their environment. One well-established response is that of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. In rats, corticosterone is the major adrenal steroid secreted and is released in direct response to adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) secreted from the anterior pituitary gland. ACTH in turn is regulated by the hypothalamic factor, corticotropin-releasing hormone. A sex difference exists in the response of the HPA axis to stress, with females reacting more robustly than males. It has been demonstrated that in both sexes, products of the HPA axis inhibit reproductive function. Conversely, the sex differences in HPA function are in part due to differences in the circulating gonadal steroid hormone milieu. It appears that testosterone can act to inhibit HPA function, whereas estrogen can enhance HPA function. One mechanism by which androgens and estrogens modulate stress responses is through the binding to their cognate receptors in the central nervous system. The distribution and regulation of androgen and estrogen receptors within the CNS suggest possible sites and mechanisms by which gonadal steroid hormones can influence stress responses. In the case of androgens, data suggest that the control of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus is mediated trans-synaptically. For estrogen, modulation of the HPA axis may be due to changes in glucocorticoid receptor-mediated negative feedback mechanisms. The results of a variety of studies suggest that gonadal steroid hormones, particularly testosterone, modulate HPA activity in an attempt to prevent the deleterious effects of HPA activation on reproductive function.
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            Stress: a risk factor for serious illness.

            The body's principal adaptive responses to stress stimuli are mediated by an intricate stress system, which includes the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system (SAS). Dysregulation of the system, caused by the cumulative burden of repetitive or chronic environmental stress challenges (allostatic load) contributes to the development of a variety of illnesses including hypertension, atherosclerosis, and the insulin-resistance-dyslipidemia syndrome, as well as certain disorders of immune function. The brain's limbic system, particularly the hippocampus and amygdala, is also intimately involved in the stress response. Chronically elevated corticosteroid levels induced by persisting stress may adversely affect hippocampal structure and function, producing deficits of both memory and cognition. The ability of stress to cause illness in humans is most clearly exemplified by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which consists of a predictable constellation of distressing behavioral symptoms and physiological features. An appreciable proportion of the observed variance in vulnerability to PTSD is attributable to genetic factors. The relationship of this disorder to its precipitating cause-a recent, severely traumatic event-is unambiguous. The neuroendocrinology of PTSD is noteworthy, being characterized in many adult victims by enhanced negative feedback sensitivity of glucocorticoid receptors in the stress response system, and lower than normal urinary and plasma cortisol levels. Adult patients with PTSD also have been shown to exhibit exaggerated catecholamine responses to trauma-related stimuli. On the other hand, severely maltreated prepubertal children with PTSD continue to excrete greater than normal urinary cortisol, catecholamines, and dopamine years after disclosure of the causative abuse. Copyright 2002, Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.
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              Prenatal stress alters brain catecholaminergic activity and potentiates stress-induced behavior in adult rats.

              Previous studies demonstrated that throughout the preweaning period prenatally stressed rats have an overactive hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system. This increased HPA activity was accompanied by an increase in defensive behavior. This study examined whether these alterations in HPA activity and defensive behavior continued into adulthood. Brain catecholamines in the cerebral cortex and locus coeruleus were also measured in prenatally stressed and control rats. Shock-induced levels of defensive freezing were significantly higher in prenatally stressed rats than in controls. However, plasma ACTH and corticosterone concentrations did not differ between groups either in the basal state or after exposure to foot shock. Concentrations of norepinephrine (NE) in the cerebral cortex and locus coeruleus region were significantly reduced in prenatally stressed rats. In addition, concentrations of NE metabolites were significantly elevated in prenatally stressed rats, suggesting an increased turnover of brain NE. Prenatally stressed rats also had, in the locus coeruleus region, significantly reduced dopamine (DA) levels but elevated concentration of DA metabolites. Results indicate that prenatal stress produces an increased behavioral responsiveness to stress that is evident in early life and continues into adulthood. The early hyperactivity of the HPA system in prenatally stressed rats, however, appears to normalize in adulthood. The increased turnover in brain catecholamines measure in the cerebral cortex and locus coeruleus region of prenatally stressed rats may be associated with the heightened expression of stress-induced behavior.

                Author and article information

                S. Karger AG
                December 2003
                29 December 2003
                : 78
                : 6
                : 312-320
                Departments of aPsychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, bNeuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx,N.Y., USA; cDepartment of Psychiatry, Albert Szent-Györgyi Center for Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary, and dDepartment of Normal, Pathological and Clinical Physiology, 3rd Faculty of Medicine, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
                74884 Neuroendocrinology 2003;78:312–320
                © 2003 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 4, References: 52, Pages: 9
                Pituitary-Adrenal Regulation


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