Glucocorticoids (GCs) are essential for stress adaptation, acting centrally and in the periphery. Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), a major regulator of adrenal GC synthesis, is produced in the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus (PVH), which contains multiple neuroendocrine and preautonomic neurons. GCs may be involved in diverse regulatory mechanisms in the PVH, but the target genes of GCs are largely unexplored except for the CRF gene (Crh), a well-known target for GC negative feedback. Using a genome-wide RNA-sequencing analysis, we identified transcripts that changed in response to either high-dose corticosterone (Cort) exposure for 12 days (12-day high Cort), corticoid deprivation for 7 days (7-day ADX), or acute Cort administration. Among others, canonical GC target genes were upregulated prominently by 12-day high Cort. Crh was upregulated or downregulated most prominently by either 7-day ADX or 12-day high Cort, emphasizing the recognized feedback effects of GC on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Concomitant changes in vasopressin and apelin receptor gene expression are likely to contribute to HPA repression. In keeping with the pleotropic cellular actions of GCs, 7-day ADX downregulated numerous genes of a broad functional spectrum. The transcriptome response signature differed markedly between acute Cort injection and 12-day high Cort. Remarkably, six immediate early genes were upregulated 1 hour after Cort injection, which was confirmed by quantitative reverse transcription PCR and semiquantitative in situ hybridization. This study may provide a useful database for studying the regulatory mechanisms of GC-dependent gene expression and repression in the PVH.
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