Differential corticosteroid modulation of inhibitory synaptic currents in the dorsal and ventral hippocampus

J Neurosci. 2009 Mar 4;29(9):2857-66. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4399-08.2009.


Corticosterone has been known to mediate the effects of stress on cognitive functions associated with the hippocampus. Acting at mineralocorticosteroid receptors (MRs) and glucocorticosteroid receptors (GRs), corticosterone exerts several effects in the hippocampus and elsewhere. Assuming that there are major functional differences between the dorsal hippocampus (DH) and ventral hippocampus (VH), and that these may be regulated by local interneurons, we analyzed the action of corticosterone on inhibitory synaptic currents in patch-clamped pyramidal neurons, recorded in acute slices of DH and VH. Corticosterone, through activation of MRs, reduced the frequency of spontaneous IPSCs in VH but not in DH neurons, and markedly suppressed paired-pulse facilitation of evoked inhibitory synaptic currents. These effects were mimicked by aldosterone, an MR agonist, and were blocked by an MR antagonist. In contrast, corticosterone caused an increase in the magnitude of IPSCs in both the DH and VH via its activation of GRs. This effect was mimicked by a GR agonist, dexamethasone, which produced a slow-onset, large potentiation reaching a peak within 45-60 min after onset of perfusion, and was blocked by a GR antagonist. The amplitude of mIPSCs was markedly increased by the GR agonist, indicating a synaptic locus of effect. These results indicate that corticosterone has a dual action, which may underlie the differential functional effects of stress hormones in the DH and VH.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / pharmacology*
  • Aldosterone / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Corticosterone / pharmacology
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / drug effects
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Hippocampus / drug effects*
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Male
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid / drug effects
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid / genetics
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid / physiology
  • Synapses / drug effects*
  • Synapses / physiology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid
  • Aldosterone
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid
  • Dexamethasone
  • Corticosterone