Chapter 4.2 Sympatho-adrenal activity and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis regulation

Yvonne M. Ulrich-Lai, William C. Engeland

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

13 Scopus citations


The secretion of glucocorticoids from the adrenal cortex is considered an essential adaptive component of the response to stress. Although adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) regulates adrenal steroidogenesis, the dissociation between changes in plasma ACTH and glucocorticoids under nonstress and stress conditions has prompted the search for alternative non-ACTH mechanisms. The innervation of the adrenal cortex and the intermingling of adrenal cortical and medullary cells form the anatomical substrate for regulation of adrenocortical secretion by neural elements. In vitro studies demonstrate the effectiveness of a variety of neurotransmitters to affect adrenal steroidogenesis. In vivo experiments show that adrenal denervation alters glucocorticoid secretion under nonstress and stress conditions. Further investigations are required to reveal the full extent of neural control of adrenal steroidogenesis and to delineate the mechanisms that underlie it. Nonetheless, the collective results suggest that the brain can control glucocorticoid production by at least two complimentary mechanisms, by stimulation of the neuroendocrine hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and through direct activation of adrenal neural elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationTechniques in the Behavioral and Neural Sciences
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages17
EditionPART 1
StatePublished - 2005

Publication series

NameTechniques in the Behavioral and Neural Sciences
NumberPART 1
ISSN (Print)0921-0709

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Michelle Bland, Ada Fraticelli, Debra Hebert, Carolyn Morris, and Cheryl Wotus for their technical assistance and Dr. Brett Levay-Young for help with methods development. This work was supported by NSF grants IBN-9728132 and IBN-0112543, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Predoctoral Fellowship (YMU), and a University of Minnesota Graduate School Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship (YMU).


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