Dynamic regulation of mitochondrial function by glucocorticoids.
Glucocorticoids play an important biphasic role in modulating neural plasticity; low doses enhance neural plasticity and spatial memory behavior, whereas chronic, higher doses produce inhibition. We found that 3 independent measures of mitochondrial function-mitochondrial oxidation, membrane potential, and mitochondrial calcium holding capacity-were regulated by long-term corticosterone (CORT) treatment in an inverted "U"-shape. This regulation of mitochondrial function by CORT correlated with neuroprotection; that is, treatment with low doses of CORT had a neuroprotective effect, whereas treatment with high doses of CORT enhanced kainic acid (KA)-induced toxicity of cortical neurons. We then undertook experiments to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these biphasic effects and found that glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) formed a complex with the anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 in response to CORT treatment and translocated with Bcl-2 into mitochondria after acute treatment with low or high doses of CORT in primary cortical neurons. However, after 3 days of treatment, high, but not low, doses of CORT resulted in decreased GR and Bcl-2 levels in mitochondria. As with the in vitro studies, Bcl-2 levels in the mitochondria of the prefrontal cortex were significantly decreased, along with GR levels, after long-term treatment with high-dose CORT in vivo. These findings have the potential to contribute to a more complete understanding of the mechanisms by which glucocorticoids and chronic stress regulate cellular plasticity and resilience and to inform the future development of improved therapeutics.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Mar 3;106(9):3543-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812671106. Epub 2009 Feb 6.