Mineralocorticoid receptors in control of emotional arousal and fear memory

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Horm Behav, Volume 56, Number 2, p.232-238 (2009)


1095-6867 (Electronic)00

DOI Name (links to online publication)



Animals; Cognition/physiology; Conditioning; Classical/physiology; Corticosterone/blood; Cues; Emotions/*physiology; Environment; Fear/*physiology; Female; Freezing Reaction; Cataleptic; Memory/*physiology; Mice; Mice; Inbred C57BL; Mice; Transgenic; Moto


The stress hormone corticosterone acts via two receptor types in the brain: the mineralocorticoid (MR) and the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). Both receptors are involved in processing of stressful events. A disbalance of MR:GR functions is thought to promote stress-related disorders. Here we studied the effect of stress on emotional and cognitive behaviors in mice with forebrain-specific inactivation of the MR gene (MR(CaMKCre), 4 months old; and control littermates). MR(CaMKCre) mice responded to prior stress (5 min of restraint) with higher arousal and less locomotor activity in an exploration task. A fear conditioning paradigm allowed assessing in one experimental procedure both context- and cue-related fear. During conditioning, MR(CaMKCre) mice expressed more cue-related freezing. During memory test, contextual freezing remained potentiated, while control mice distinguished between cue (more freezing) and context episodes (less freezing) in the second memory test. At this time, plasma corticosterone levels of MR(CaMKCre) mice were 40% higher than in controls. We conclude that control of emotional arousal and adaptive behaviors is lost in the absence of forebrain MR, and thus, anxiety-related responses are and remain augmented. We propose that such a disbalance in MR:GR functions in MR(CaMKCre) mice provides the conditions for an animal model for anxiety-related disorders.