Subordination stress alters alternative splicing of the Slo gene in tree shrew adrenals

Horm Behav. 2003 Jan;43(1):180-6. doi: 10.1016/s0018-506x(02)00010-7.


It was previously hypothesized that stress hormones regulate the alternative splicing of Slo potassium channels, thereby tuning the intrinsic excitability of adrenal chromaffin cells. Male tree shrews subjected to chronic stress by exposure to a dominant male develop robust symptoms with parallels to human depression. We report here that adrenals from males subjected to 4-6 weeks of subordination have a significantly smaller proportion of Slo transcripts with the optional STREX exon (STRess-axis regulated EXon) than unstressed male adrenals. Female adrenals (unstressed) had even lower levels than stressed males. These data suggest both behavioral regulation and sexual dimorphism in ion channel structure. We hypothesize that chromaffin cell excitability and sympathoadrenal function will be altered, and speculate that this may favor passive coping responses in subordinate males and females.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Glands / anatomy & histology
  • Adrenal Glands / physiology*
  • Alternative Splicing / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Dominance-Subordination*
  • Female
  • Hydrocortisone / urine
  • Hypophysectomy
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / surgery
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • Male
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated / genetics*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Tupaiidae


  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • Potassium Channels, Calcium-Activated
  • Hydrocortisone