Hypothalamic parvocellular vasopressin (VP) and corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) are major secretagogues of corticotropin (ACTH), and central plasticity including their alteration is closely related to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis modulation. Chronic hyperosmotic stress caused by 2% salt loading has been known to alter VP and CRH expression. We recently reported that rehydration, a recovery stage from salt loading, induced a prolonged increase in parvocellular VP mRNA expression and suggested that rehydration can modulate HPA axis function without obvious external stress. In the present study, we examined hypothalamic VP and CRH mRNA expression and their responsiveness to acute immobilization stress in control, salt-loaded and rehydrated animals, in order to clarify the precise mechanism of HPA axis regulation during rehydration. The results were further compared with plasma corticosterone and ACTH levels. Plasma corticosterone decreased during salt loading, whereas it increased during rehydration at 1 week. Basal ACTH concentration increased in 1-week-rehydrated animals, with enhanced responsiveness to the acute immobilization stress. In the hypothalamic parvocellular PVN, basal CRH mRNA levels also decreased during salt loading and increased during rehydration. Basal VP mRNA was up-regulated during both salt loading and rehydration. VP mRNA responded to additional acute stress during salt loading and rehydration, but CRH mRNA did not. These results indicate that the HPA axis activity of parvocellular neurons is still altered at 1 week of rehydration and that VP plays a dominant role in regulating ACTH release in response to acute stress. This rehydration stage may thus be a good model for analysis of post-stress sensitization of the HPA axis.
Copyright 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel