To limit excessive glucocorticoid secretion following hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stimulation, circulating glucocorticoids inhibit corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) expression in paraventricular nucleus (PVN) neurons. As HPA function differs between sexes and depends on circulating estradiol (E2) levels in females, we investigated sex/estrous stage-dependent glucocorticoid regulation of PVN Crh. Using NanoString nCounter technology, we first demonstrated that adrenalectomized (ADX’d) diestrous female (low E2), but not male or proestrous female (high E2), mice exhibited a robust decrease in PVN CRH mRNA following 2-day treatment with the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) agonist RU28362. Immunohistochemical analysis of PVN CRH neurons in Crh-IRES-Cre;Ai14 mice, where TdTomato fluorescence permanently tags CRH-expressing neurons, showed similarly abundant co-expression of GR-immunoreactivity in males, diestrous females, and proestrous females. However, we identified sex/estrous stage-related glucocorticoid regulation or expression of GR transcriptional coregulators. Out of 17 coregulator genes examined using nCounter multiplex analysis, mRNAs that were decreased by RU28362 in ADX’d mice in a sex/estrous stage-dependent fashion included: GR (males = diestrous females > proestrous females), signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) (males < diestrous = proestrous), and HDAC1 (males < diestrous > proestrous). Steroid receptor coactivator 3 (SRC-3), nuclear corepressor 1 (NCoR1), heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein U (hnrnpu), CREB binding protein (CBP) and CREB-regulated transcription coactivator 2 (CRTC2) mRNAs were lower in ADX’d diestrous and proestrous females versus males. Additionally, most PVN CRH neurons co-expressed methylated CpG binding protein 2 (MeCP2)-immunoreactivity in diestrous female and male Crh-IRES-Cre;Ai14 mice. Our findings collectively suggest that GR’s sex-dependent regulation of PVN Crh may depend upon differences in the GR transcriptional machinery and an underlying influence of E2 levels in females.
- Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)
- Glucocorticoid receptor (GR)
- Paraventricular nucleus (PVN)
- Sex differences