Chronic stress increases pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating peptide (PACAP) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) mRNA expression in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST): roles for PACAP in anxiety-like behavior

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009 Jul;34(6):833-43. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.12.013. Epub 2009 Jan 31.


Exposure to chronic stress has been argued to produce maladaptive anxiety-like behavioral states, and many of the brain regions associated with stressor responding also mediate anxiety-like behavior. Pituitary adenylate cyclase activating polypeptide (PACAP) and its specific G protein-coupled PAC(1) receptor have been associated with many of these stress- and anxiety-associated brain regions, and signaling via this peptidergic system may facilitate the neuroplasticity associated with pathological affective states. Here we investigated whether chronic stress increased transcript expression for PACAP, PAC(1) receptor, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and tyrosine receptor kinase B (TrkB) in several nuclei. In rats exposed to a 7 days chronic variate stress paradigm, chronic stress enhanced baseline startle responding induced by handling and exposure to bright lights. Following chronic stress, quantitative transcript assessments of brain regions demonstrated dramatic increases in PACAP and PAC(1) receptor, BDNF, and TrkB receptor mRNA expression selectively in the dorsal aspect of the anterolateral bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (dBNST). Related vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP) and VPAC receptor, and other stress peptide transcript levels were not altered compared to controls. Moreover, acute PACAP38 infusion into the dBNST resulted in a robust dose-dependent anxiogenic response on baseline startle responding that persisted for 7 days. PACAP/PAC(1) receptor signaling has established trophic functions and its coordinate effects with chronic stress-induced dBNST BDNF and TrkB transcript expression may underlie the maladaptive BNST remodeling and plasticity associated with anxiety-like behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / chemically induced
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Anxiety / genetics
  • Anxiety / metabolism
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / genetics*
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism
  • Chronic Disease
  • Male
  • Models, Biological
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide / genetics*
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide / metabolism
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide / pharmacology
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Receptor, trkB / genetics
  • Receptor, trkB / metabolism
  • Receptors, Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide, Type I / genetics
  • Receptors, Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide, Type I / metabolism
  • Septal Nuclei / drug effects
  • Septal Nuclei / metabolism*
  • Stress, Psychological / chemically induced
  • Stress, Psychological / genetics*
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Up-Regulation / genetics


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Receptors, Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase-Activating Polypeptide, Type I
  • Receptor, trkB