Acute activation of hippocampal glucocorticoid receptors results in different waves of gene expression throughout time

Publication Type:

Journal Article


J Neuroendocrinol, Volume 18, Number 4, p.239-252 (2006)


0953-8194 (Print)0953-81

DOI Name (links to online publication)



Animals; Calmodulin/genetics/metabolism; Corticosterone/*metabolism; Down-Regulation; Gene Expression Profiling; Hippocampus/*metabolism; Lim Kinases; Male; Monoamine Oxidase/genetics/metabolism; Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis; Organ Culture Tech


Several aspects of hippocampal cell function are influenced by adrenal-secreted glucocorticoids in a delayed, genomic fashion. Previously, we used Serial Analysis of Gene Expression to identify glucocorticoid receptor (GR)-induced transcriptional changes in the hippocampus at a fixed time point. However, because changes in mRNA levels are transient and most likely precede the effects on hippocampal cell function, the aim of the current study was to assess the transcriptional changes in a broader time window by generating a time curve of GR-mediated gene expression changes. Therefore, we used rat hippocampal slices obtained from adrenalectomised rats, substituted in vivo with low corticosterone pellets, predominantly occupying the hippocampal mineralocorticoid receptors. To activate GR, slices were treated in vitro with a high (100 nM) dose of corticosterone and gene expression was profiled 1, 3 and 5 h after GR-activation. Using Affymetrix GeneChips, a striking pattern with different waves of gene expression was observed, shifting from exclusively down-regulated genes 1 h after GR-activation to both up and down regulated genes 3 h after GR-activation. After 5 h, the response was almost back to baseline. Additionally, real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction was used for validation of a selection of responsive genes including genes involved in neurotransmission and synaptic plasticity such as the corticotropin releasing hormone receptor 1, monoamine oxidase A, LIMK1 and calmodulin 2. This permitted confirmation of GR-responsiveness of 15 out of 18 selected genes. In conclusion, direct activation of GR in hippocampal slices results in transient changes in gene expression. The pattern in which gene expression was modulated suggests that the fast genomic effects of glucocorticoids may be realised via transrepression, preceding a later wave of transactivation. Furthermore, we identified a number of interesting candidate genes which may underlie the glucocorticoid-mediated effects on hippocampal cell function.