The corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) family of peptides as local modulators of adrenal function

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2007 Jul;64(13):1638-55. doi: 10.1007/s00018-007-6555-7.


Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), also termed corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) or corticoliberin, is the major regulator of the adaptive response to internal or external stresses. An essential component of the adaptation mechanism is the adrenal gland. CRF regulates adrenal function indirectly through the central nervous system (CNS) via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and via the autonomic nervous system by way of locus coeruleus (LC) in the brain stem. Accumulating evidence suggests that CRF and its related peptides also affect the adrenals directly, i.e. not through the CNS but from within the adrenal gland where they form paracrine regulatory loops. Indeed, CRF and its related peptides, the urocortins (UCNs: UCN1, UCN2 and UCN3), their receptors CRF type 1 (CRF(1)) and 2 (CRF(2)) as well as the endogenous pseudo-receptor CRF-binding protein (CRF-BP) are all expressed in adrenal cortical, medullary chromaffin and resident immune cells. The intra-adrenal CRF-based regulatory system is complex and depends on the balance between the local concentration of CRF ligands and the availability of their receptors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Gland Diseases / metabolism
  • Adrenal Glands / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Peptides / metabolism*


  • Peptides
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone