This study used mice to evaluate whether coupling expression of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) creates central interactions that blunt endocrine and behavioral responses to psychogenic stress. Central administration of diminazene aceturate, an ACE2 activator, had no effect on restraint-induced activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis; however, mice that ubiquitously overexpress ACE2 had reduced plasma corticosterone (CORT) and pituitary expression of POMC mRNA. The Cre-LoxP system was used to restrict ACE2 overexpression to CRH synthesizing cells and probe whether HPA axis suppression was the result of central ACE2 and CRH interactions. Within the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVN), mice with ACE2 overexpression directed to CRH had a ≈2.5 fold increase in ACE2 mRNA, which co-localized with CRH mRNA. Relative to controls, mice overexpressing ACE2 in CRH cells had a decreased CORT response to restraint as well as decreased CRH mRNA in the PVN and CEA and POMC mRNA in the pituitary. Administration of ACTH similarly increased plasma CORT, indicating that the blunted HPA axis activation that accompanies ACE2 overexpression in CRH cells is centrally mediated. Anxiety-like behavior was assessed to determine whether the decreased HPA axis activation was predictive of anxiolysis. Mice with ACE2 overexpression directed to CRH cells displayed decreased anxiety-like behavior in the elevated plus maze and open field when compared to that of controls. Collectively, these results suggest that exogenous ACE2 suppresses CRH synthesis, which alters the central processing of psychogenic stress, thereby blunting HPA axis activation and attenuating anxiety-like behavior.
Neuropharmacology – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2018
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