The European journal of neuroscience

Effect of a single and repeated stress exposure on gene expression of catecholamine biosynthetic enzymes in brainstem catecholaminergic cell groups in rats.

PMID 25994480


Brainstem catecholaminergic neurons significantly participate in the regulation of neuroendocrine system activity, particularly during stressful conditions. However, so far the precise quantitative characterisation of basal and stress-induced changes in gene expression and protein levels of catecholaminergic biosynthetic enzymes in these neurons has been missing. Using a quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction method, we investigated gene expression of catecholamine biosynthetic enzymes in brainstem noradrenergic and adrenergic cell groups in rats under resting conditions as well as in acutely and repeatedly stressed animals. For the first time, we described quantitative differences in basal levels of catecholamine biosynthetic enzyme mRNA in brainstem catecholaminergic ascending and descending projecting cell groups. Moreover, we found and defined some differences among catecholaminergic cell groups in the time-course of mRNA levels of catecholaminergic enzymes following a single and especially repeated immobilisation stress. The data obtained support the assumption that brainstem catecholaminergic cell groups represent a functionally differentiated system, which is highly (but specifically) activated in rats exposed to stress. Therefore, potential interventions for the treatment of stress-related diseases need to affect the activity of brainstem catecholaminergic neurons not uniformly but with some degree of selectivity.