Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction in Apoe(-/-) mice: possible role in behavioral and metabolic alterations

J Neurosci. 2000 Mar 1;20(5):2064-71. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.20-05-02064.2000.


Several neurological diseases are frequently accompanied by dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis regulates the secretion of glucocorticoids (GCs), which play important roles in diverse brain functions, including cognition, emotion, and feeding. Under physiological conditions, GCs are adaptive and beneficial; however, prolonged elevations in GC levels may contribute to neurodegeneration and brain dysfunction. In the current study, we demonstrate that apolipoprotein E (apoE) deficiency results in age-dependent dysregulation of the HPA axis through a mechanism affecting primarily the adrenal gland. Apoe(-/-) mice, which develop neurodegenerative alterations as they age, had an age-dependent increase in basal adrenal corticosterone content and abnormally increased plasma corticosterone levels after restraint stress, whereas their plasma and pituitary adrenocorticotropin levels were either unchanged or lower than those in controls. HPA axis dysregulation was associated with behavioral and metabolic alterations. When anxiety levels were assessed in the elevated plus maze, Apoe(-/-) mice showed more anxiety than wild-type controls. Apoe(-/-) mice also showed reduced activity in the open field. Finally, Apoe(-/-) mice showed age-dependent increases in food and water intake, stomach and body weights, and decreases in brown and white adipose tissues. These results support a key role for apoE in the tonic inhibition of steroidogenesis and HPA axis activity and have important implications for the behavioral analysis of Apoe(-/-) mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / chemistry
  • Adrenal Glands / drug effects
  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / chemistry
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / metabolism
  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Drinking
  • Eating
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Motor Activity / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Corticosterone