RATIONALE: Repeated activation of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) receptors is associated with increased anxiety and enhanced stress responsivity, which may be mediated via limbic GABAergic and glutamatergic transmission.
OBJECTIVE: The present study investigated molecular and functional alterations in GABA(A) receptor (GABA(A)R) and metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) responsivity in transgenic mice that chronically overexpress CRF.
METHODS: CRF(1) receptor, GABA(A)R, and mGluR sensitivity were determined in CRF-overexpressing mice using the stress-induced hyperthermia (SIH) test. In addition, we measured mRNA expression levels of GABA(A)R α subunits and mGluRs in the amygdala and hypothalamus.
RESULTS: CRF-overexpressing mice were less sensitive to the anxiolytic effects of the CRF(1) receptor antagonists CP154,526 and DMP695, the GABA(A)R α(3)-selective agonist TP003 (0-3 mg/kg) and the mGluR(2/3) agonist LY379268 (0-10 mg/kg) in the SIH test. The hypothermic effect of the non-selective GABA(A)R agonist diazepam (0-4 mg/kg) and the α(1)-subunit-selective GABA(A)R agonist zolpidem (0-10 mg/kg) was reduced in CRF-overexpressing mice. No genotype differences were found using the GABA(A)R α(5)-subunit preferential compound SH-053-2'F-R-CH(3) and mGluR(5) antagonists MPEP and MTEP. CRF-overexpressing mice showed decreased expression levels of GABA(A)R α(2) subunit and mGluR(3) mRNA levels in the amygdala, whereas these expression levels were increased in the hypothalamus. CRF-overexpressing mice also showed increased hypothalamic mRNA levels of α(1) and α(5) GABA(A)R subunits.
CONCLUSIONS: We found that lifelong CRF overproduction is associated with altered gene expression and reduced functional sensitivity of discrete GABA(A) and mGluR receptor subtypes. These findings suggest that sustained over-activation of cerebral CRF receptors may contribute to the development of altered stress-related behavior via modulation of GABAergic and glutamatergic transmission.