Study Title:

Dynamic regulation of mitochondrial function by glucocorticoids.

Study Abstract

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.

Study Information

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Mar 3;106(9):3543-8. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0812671106. Epub 2009 Feb 6.

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