Glucocorticoid receptor mRNA expression in the hippocampal formation of male rats before and after pubertal development in response to acute or repeated stress
Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
Numerous studies have established that adolescence is marked by substantial changes in stress reactivity and hippocampal function. Glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) in the hippocampus are imperative in corticosterone-dependent gene transcription when glucocorticoid levels are relatively high, such as during periods of stress. As reported previously, in reaction to acute stress, prepubertal animals show a significantly more protracted corticosterone response compared to adults. Chronic stress, however, results in a higher peak response, but a faster return to baseline in prepubertal compared to adult animals. Thus, depending on the developmental stage and experience of the animal, the hippocampus is exposed to different concentrations and durations of corticosterone. The present set of experiments assessed the effects of acute or repeated stress on GR mRNA expression in the dorsal and ventral hippocampal formation either before or after pubertal maturation in male rats. We found that acute stress results in a significant decrease in GR mRNA in the CA1 pyramidal cell layer and dentate gyrus in the dorsal and ventral hippocampal formation of both prepubertal and adult males. In response to repeated stress, we found no differences in GR expression in either the dorsal or ventral hippocampus. Thus, despite the dramatic differences in corticosterone concentration following stress at these two developmental stages, the stress-induced changes in GR expression in the hippocampus before and after pubertal maturation were more similar than different. These data point to a dissociation between differential stress-induced corticosterone responses and regulation of hippocampal GR levels in prepubertal and adult animals.