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The Journal of comparative neurology

Evidence for involvement of a limbic paraventricular hypothalamic inhibitory network in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis adaptations to repeated stress.


PMID 26010947

Abstract

Emotional stressors activate a stereotyped set of limbic forebrain cell groups implicated in constraining stress-induced hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation by inhibiting hypophysiotropic neurons in the paraventricular hypothalamic nucleus (PVH). We previously identified a circumscribed, anterior part of the bed nuclei of the stria terminalis (aBST) that houses stress-sensitive, PVH-projecting, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-ergic neurons as representing a site of convergence of stress-inhibitory influences originating from medial prefrontal and hippocampal cortices. Here we investigate whether exaggerated HPA axis responses associated with chronic variable stress (CVS; daily exposure to different stressors at unpredictable times over 14 days, followed by restraint stress on day 15) and diminished HPA output seen following repeated (14 days) restraint-stress exposure are associated with differential engagement of the limbic modulatory network. Relative to acutely restrained rats, animals subjected to CVS showed the expected increase (sensitization) in HPA responses and diminished levels of activation (Fos) of GABAergic neurons and glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) mRNA expression in the aBST. By contrast, repeated restraint stress produced habituation in HPA responses, maintained levels of activation of GABAergic neurons, and increased GAD expression in the aBST. aBST-projecting neurons in limbic sites implicated in HPA axis inhibition tended to show diminished activational responses in both repeated-stress paradigms, with the exception of the paraventricular thalamic nucleus, in which responsiveness was maintained in repeatedly restrained animals. The results are consistent with the view that differential engagement of HPA inhibitory mechanisms in the aBST may contribute to alterations in HPA axis responses to emotional stress in sensitization and habituation paradigms.

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