Evidence for a hyporesponsive limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis following early-life repetitive hypoglycemia in adult male rats

Ashton E. Lehmann, Kathleen Ennis, Michael K. Georgieff, Raghavendra Rao, Phu V. Tran

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8 Scopus citations


The developing limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (LHPA) axis is highly vulnerable to programming by early-life environmental factors, including exposure to synthetic glucocorticoids and nutrient deficiencies. Early-life repetitive hypoglycemia (RHG) is a common complication of insulin therapy for type-1 diabetes that may have long-term consequences in adulthood. Recent observations in a rat model of early RHG suggest persistent changes in LHPA axis function, including changes in relevant hormones and affective behaviors, which support a hyperresponsive LHPA axis. Thus, we hypothesized that early RHG would alter the expression of key genes regulating LHPA axis function in adulthood. The present study employed a rat model of insulin-induced RHG spanning postnatal days (P)24 -28, a neurodevelopmentalequivalent of early childhood in humans, to assess the long-term effects on mRNA levels for proteins relevant to the LHPA function and the corticosterone responses to ACTH stimulation of dispersed adrenocortical cells in vitro and restraint stress in vivo at adulthood. This early RHG model resulted in a hyporesponsive LHPA axis characterized by impaired corticosterone response, increased hippocampal glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptor (GR and MR), decreased hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone, increased adrenal steroidogenic-acute-regulatory protein and GR, and decreased adrenal MR, melanocortin-type-2 receptor and low-density lipoprotein receptor expression. Our findings highlight a complex environmental-gene interaction between RHG and LHPA axis during development that influences regulation of this axis in adulthood. The findings are consistent with the developmental origins of disease and underscore the influences of early-life events on the programming of a major regulatory system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R484-R490
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Corticosteroid receptors
  • Developmental programming
  • Low-density lipoprotein receptor
  • Stress response
  • Type-1 diabetes


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