Glucocorticoid Receptor Down-Regulation Affects Neural Stem Cell Proliferation and Hippocampal Neurogenesis

Mol Neurobiol. 2023 Nov 18. doi: 10.1007/s12035-023-03785-y. Online ahead of print.


Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and abnormalities in the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) have been linked to major depressive disorder. Given the critical role of GR in stress response regulation, we investigated the impact of GR changes on neural stem cells (NSCs) proliferation and hippocampal neurogenesis. Stress response was induced using dexamethasone (DEX), a GR agonist, which led to reduced proliferation of neural stem cells and neural progenitor cells, as well as decreased expression of GR. Additionally, a reduction of serum concentration within the culture media resulted in suppressed cell proliferation, accompanied by decreased GR expression. The association between GR expression and cell proliferation was further confirmed through GR siRNA knockdown and overexpression experiments. Furthermore, in vivo studies utilizing young male C57BL/6 mice demonstrated that corticosterone (CORT) (35 μg/ml) administered through drinking water for four weeks induced depression-like behavior, as indicated by increased immobility times in forced swimming and tail suspension tests. CORT exposure led to reduced GR and nestin expression levels, along with diminished numbers of BrdU-positive cells in the hippocampi, indicating impaired hippocampal neurogenesis. Taken together, our findings provide the first evidence that stress-induced downregulation of GR negatively affects neurogenesis by inhibiting NSCs proliferation.

Keywords: Dexamethasone; Glucocorticoid receptor; Major depressive disorder; Neural stem cell; Stress.