Sex-dependent mechanisms of glucocorticoid regulation of the mouse hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone gene

Ashley L. Heck, Maranda K. Thompson, Rosalie M. Uht, Robert J. Handa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEndocrinology (United States)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Adrenalectomy
  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)
  • Glucocorticoid receptor (GR)
  • Paraventricular nucleus (PVN)
  • Sex differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology


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