Roles of mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptors in the regulation of progenitor proliferation in the adult hippocampus

Eur J Neurosci. 2005 Aug;22(4):785-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2005.04277.x.


New neurons are produced continually in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. Numerous factors modulate the rate of neuron production. One of the most important is the adrenal-derived corticoids. Raised levels of corticoids suppress proliferation of progenitor cells, while removal of corticoids by adrenalectomy reverses this. The exact mechanisms by which corticoids mediate such regulation are unknown, but corticoids are believed to act through the receptors for mineralocorticoids (MR) and glucocorticoids (GR). Previous reports regarding the roles of these receptors in regulating cell proliferation came to contrasting conclusions. Here we use both agonists and antagonists to these receptors in adult male rats to investigate and clarify their roles. Blockade of MR with spironolactone in adrenalectomised male rats implanted with a corticosterone pellet to reproduce basal levels enhanced proliferation, whereas treatment with the GR antagonist mifepristone had no effect. However, mifepristone reversed the suppressive effect of additional corticosterone in intact rats. Both aldosterone and RU362, agonists of MR and GR, respectively, reduced proliferation in adrenalectomised rats, and combined treatment with both agonists had an additional suppressive action. These results clearly show that occupancies of both receptors act in the same direction on progenitor proliferation. The existence of two receptors with different affinities for corticoids may ensure that proliferation of progenitor cells in the adult dentate gyrus is regulated across the range of adrenal corticoid activity, including both basal and stressful contexts. Although a small proportion of newly formed cells may express GR and MR, corticosterone probably regulates proliferation indirectly through other local cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenalectomy / methods
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Bromodeoxyuridine / metabolism
  • Cell Count / methods
  • Cell Proliferation / ethics*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Corticosterone / pharmacology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Hippocampus / cytology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Hormone Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Immunohistochemistry / methods
  • Ki-67 Antigen / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mifepristone / pharmacology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / physiology*
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid / physiology*
  • Spironolactone / pharmacology
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Thymus Gland


  • Hormone Antagonists
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid
  • Spironolactone
  • Mifepristone
  • Bromodeoxyuridine
  • Corticosterone