Functional role of local GABAergic influences on the HPA axis

Brain Struct Funct. 2008 Sep;213(1-2):63-72. doi: 10.1007/s00429-008-0192-2. Epub 2008 Aug 12.


Neuronatomical and pharmacological studies have established GABA-mediated inhibition of the HPA axis at the level of the PVN. The origin of this innervation is a series of local hypothalamic and adjacent forebrain regions that project to stress-integrative hypophysiotropic CRH neurons. While a role in tonic inhibition of the stress axis is likely, this system of inhibitory loci is also capable of producing a dynamic braking capacity in the context of the neuroendocrine stress response. The latter function is mediated in large part by glutamatergic forebrain afferents that increase GABA release at the level of the PVN. In addition, this local GABA system can be inhibited by upstream GABAergic projection neurons, producing activation of the HPA axis via removal of GABAergic tone. This PVN projecting GABA network interfaces with a wide range of homeostatic mechanisms, and is capable of biochemical plasticity in response to chronic stress. Collectively, the elements of this system provide for exquisite control of neuroendocrine activation in the face of stressful stimuli, and loss of this regulatory capacity may underlie many stress-related disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / anatomy & histology
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / metabolism
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / physiology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiology*
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / metabolism
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology*


  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone