The Balance Between Stress Resilience and Vulnerability Is Regulated by Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone During the Critical Postnatal Period for Sensory Development

Dev Neurobiol. 2015 Aug;75(8):842-53. doi: 10.1002/dneu.22252. Epub 2014 Dec 10.


Determining whether a stressful event will lead to stress-resilience or vulnerability depends probably on an adjustable stress response set point, which is most likely effective during postnatal sensory development and involves the regulation of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) expression. During the critical period of thermal-control establishment in 3-day-old chicks, heat stress was found to render resilient or sensitized response, depending on the ambient temperature. These two different responses were correlated with the amount of activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The expression of CRH mRNA in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus was augmented during heat challenge a week after heat conditioning in chicks which were trained to be vulnerable to heat, while it declined in chicks that were trained to be resilient. To study the role of CRH in HPA-axis plasticity, CRH or Crh-antisense were intracranially injected into the third ventricle. CRH caused an elevation of both body temperature and plasma corticosterone level, while Crh-antisense caused an opposite response. Moreover, these effects had long term implications by reversing a week later, heat resilience into vulnerability and vice versa. Chicks that had been injected with CRH followed by exposure to mild heat stress, normally inducing resilience, demonstrated, a week later, an elevation in body temperature, and Crh mRNA level similar to heat vulnerability, while Crh-antisense injected chicks, which were exposed to harsh temperature, responded in heat resilience. These results demonstrate a potential role for CRH in determining the stress resilience/vulnerability balance.

Keywords: chick; corticotropin-releasing hormone; hypothalamus; stress; thermoregulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Avian Proteins / metabolism
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Chickens
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / metabolism*
  • Hot Temperature*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / growth & development*
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Male
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / growth & development
  • Paraventricular Hypothalamic Nucleus / metabolism
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / growth & development*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Stress, Physiological / physiology*


  • Avian Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-fos
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Corticosterone