Stress-induced norepinephrine release in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus and pituitary-adrenocortical and sympathoadrenal activity: In vivo microdialysis studies

Karel Pacak, Miklos Palkovits, Irwin J. Kopin, David S. Goldstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

329 Citations (Scopus)


The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis and the autonomic nervous system are major effector systems that serve to maintain homeostasis during exposure to stressors. In the past decade, interest in neurochemical regulation and in pathways controlling activation of the HPA axis has focused on catecholamines, which are present in high concentrations in specific brain areas especially in the hypothalamus. The work described in this review has concentrated on the application of in vivo microdialysis in rat brain regions such as the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus, the central nucleus of the amygdala (ACE), the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BNST), and the posterolateral hypothalamus in order to examine aspects of catecholaminergic function and relationships between altered catecholaminergic function and the HPA axis and sympathoadrenal system activation in stress. Exposure of animals to immobilization (IMMO) markedly and rapidly increases rates of synthesis, release, and metabolism of norepinephrine (NE) in all the brain areas mentioned above and supports previous suggestions that in the PVN NE stimulates release of corticotropin- releasing hormone (CRH). The role of NE in the ACE and the BNST and most other areas possessing noradrenergic innervation remains unclear. Studies involving lower brainstem hemisections show that noradrenergic terminals in the PVN are derived mainly from medullary catecholaminergic groups rather than from the locus ceruleus, which is the main source of NE in the brain. Moreover, the medullary catecholaminergic groups contribute substantially to IMMO-induced noradrenergic activation in the PVN. Data obtained from adrenalectomized rats, with or without glucocorticoid replacement, and from hypercortisolemic rats suggest that glucocorticoids feedback to inhibit CRH release in the PVN, via attenuation of noradrenergic activation. Results from rats exposed to different stressors have indicated substantial differences among stressors in eliciting PVN noradrenergic responses as well as of responses of the HPA, sympathoneural, and adrenomedullary systems. Finally, involvement of other areas that participate in the regulation of the HPA axis such as the ACE, the BNST, and the hippocampus and the importance of stress- induced changes in expression of immediate early genes such as c-fos are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-150
Number of pages62
JournalFrontiers in Neuroendocrinology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 1995


  • ACTH
  • Adrenoceptors
  • Amygdala
  • Bed nucleus of stria terminalis
  • Cocticotropin-releasing hormone
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Hippocampus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems

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