Corticotropin-releasing hormone mRNA levels in response to chronic mild stress rise in male but not in female rats while tyrosine hydroxylase mRNA levels decrease in both sexes

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2001 Jan;26(1):77-89. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4530(00)00040-8.


Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and catecholamines are suggested to play a significant role in the pathophysiology of depression. In the present study we investigated gene expression of CRH in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) and tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) in the locus coeruleus (LC) in an experimental model of depression. A chronic mild stress model was applied in rats of both genders for a three-week period. Anhedonic behaviour, a typical sign of depression-like state, was measured by a sucrose preference test. The chronic mild stress induced a decrease in sucrose preference in both genders. The body weight gain was reduced in males only. The total activity in the open field test was unchanged, however, male rats exposed to chronic mild stress showed enhanced locomotor activity during the first minute of the session, suggesting increased anxiety. Basal plasma corticosterone levels, thymus and adrenal weights measured on the third day after cessation of the stress regimen, were not affected by the stress procedure. Evaluation of CRH mRNA levels in the PVN by in situ hybridisation revealed a significant rise in response to chronic mild stress in males. In females, the basal CRH mRNA levels were higher compared to those in males, but the stress-induced rise was absent. Chronic mild stress resulted in a decrease in TH mRNA levels in the LC. These data demonstrate that chronic mild stress model of depression induces a specific stress response with a reduction of TH gene expression in the LC and clear gender differences in gain of body weight, anxiety-like behaviour, and CRH mRNA levels in the PVN.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Animals
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / genetics*
  • Depression / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / chemistry
  • Photoperiod
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Stress, Physiological / etiology
  • Stress, Physiological / metabolism*
  • Sucrose / administration & dosage
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / genetics*
  • Weight Gain


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Sucrose
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase
  • Corticosterone