Prenatal stress during fetal development results in the blockade of neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus in adulthood. Present study was undertaken to investigate the dominant role of the glucocorticoid receptors in corticosterone actions on the neurogenesis of fetal hippocampal progenitor cells. For that purpose, expressions of key molecules affected by corticosterone and dexamethasone were compared during proliferation and differentiation of the hippocampal progenitor cells. Corticosterone (2 microM) significantly decreased the number of bromodeoxyuridine-labeled cells (about 50%) and caused the dendritic atrophy in microtubule-associated protein 2-labeled cells. The expressions of NeuroD, BDNF, and NR1 mRNA levels and protein levels of p-ERK and p-CREB were remarkably decreased by corticosterone in a dose-dependent manner. In contrast, dexamethasone, a glucocorticoid receptor (GR) specific agonist, had an inhibitory effect on proliferation, but not differentiation. It is concluded that corticosterone elicits its effects on neurogenesis including proliferation and differentiation whereas stimulation of the glucocorticoid receptor is sufficient to decrease only proliferation.