Amygdaloid corticotropin-releasing factor targets locus coeruleus dendrites: substrate for the co-ordination of emotional and cognitive limbs of the stress response

J Neuroendocrinol. 1998 Oct;10(10):743-57. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2826.1998.00254.x.


Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), the neurohormone that initiates the endocrine limb of the stress response via its actions on the anterior pituitary, also acts as a neurotransmitter in the noradrenergic locus coeruleus (LC) to activate this system during stress. Because the central nucleus of the amygdala contains numerous CRF-immunoreactive neurones, the present study examined whether CRF projections from the central nucleus of the amygdala target LC dendrites, thereby providing a mechanism for limbic-CRF modulation of brain noradrenergic activity. Retrograde tracers injected into the rostrolateral pericoerulear region, where CRF-immunoreactive fibres are dense, labelled numerous CRF-immunoreactive neurones in the central nucleus of the amygdala. Consistent with this, ultrastructural analysis of the rostrolateral pericoerulear region in sections that were dually labelled for an anterograde tracer (biotinylated dextran amine, BDA) injected into the central nucleus of the amygdala and CRF immunoreactivity revealed that a substantial percentage (35%) of amygdaloid axon terminals were CRF-immunoreactive. These terminals formed synaptic specializations with unlabelled dendrites that were more often of the asymmetric (excitatory) type. Additionally, ultrastructural analysis of sections that were dually labelled to visualize CRF-and tyrosine hydroxlase-immunoreactivity demonstrated synaptic specializations between CRF-immunoreactive terminals and LC dendrites in the rostrolateral peri-LC, which were also frequently asymmetric. Taken together with previous ultrastructural findings that LC dendrites in the rostrolateral pericoerulear region are targeted by anterogradely labelled terminals from the central nucleus of the amygdala, the present results implicate this nucleus as a source of CRF that can impact on LC activity via effects on dendrites in the rostrolateral pericoerulear region. This cellular substrate for amygdaloid-CRF modulation of brain noradrenergic activity may serve as a mechanism for the integration of emotional and cognitive responses to stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / cytology
  • Amygdala / physiology*
  • Amygdala / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Axons / physiology
  • Axons / ultrastructure
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Locus Coeruleus / cytology
  • Locus Coeruleus / physiology*
  • Locus Coeruleus / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase / metabolism


  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone
  • Tyrosine 3-Monooxygenase