The role of limbic and hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing factor in behavioral responses to stress

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1993 Oct 29;697:142-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1993.tb49929.x.


CRF in the central nervous system appears to have activating properties on behavior and to coordinate behavioral responses to stress. These behavioral effects of CRF appear to be independent of the pituitary-adrenal axis and can be reversed by a CRF antagonist, alpha-helical CRF9-41. The CRF antagonist reverses not only decreases in behavior associated with stress, but also increases in behavior associated with stress, thus suggesting that the role of CRF is stress dependent and not intrinsic to a given behavioral response. Further, microinjection of alpha-helical CRF9-41 and immunotargeting of CRF neurons in separate brain compartments reveal a link between the anatomical sites that contain CRF and the nature of the behavioral response to stress that can be modified by suppression of endogenous CRF activity therein. Hence, consistent with the dual role of other hypothalamic-releasing factors in integrating hormonal and neural mechanisms by acting both as secretagogues for anterior pituitary hormones and as extrapituitary peptide neurotransmitters, CRF may coordinate coping responses to stress at several bodily levels (Fig. 6). Moreover, dysfunction in such a fundamental homeostatic system may be the key to a variety of pathophysiological conditions including mental disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology*
  • Hypothalamus / physiopathology*
  • Limbic System / physiopathology*
  • Rats
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology*


  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone