Radiation-induced hyposuppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is associated with alterations of hippocampal corticosteroid receptor expression
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Therapeutic brain irradiation in children can cause a progressive decline in cognitive functions through a diminished capability to learn and memorize. Because of the known involvement of the hippocampus in memory consolidation, this study was aimed at examining the late effects of y radiation on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity and hippocampal corticosteroid receptor expression in an animal model of cranial radiotherapy. In the late-response phase, the basal and stress-induced corticosterone levels were not affected by radiation, but the suppression of glucocorticoid negative feedback by dexamethasone was attenuated in irradiated rats. Western blot analyses showed that exposure to radiation led to a decrease of cytosolic glucocorticoid receptor (GR) levels and a concomitant elevation of mineralocorticoid receptor (MR). The results obtained were complemented by those of RT-PCR, since the ratio of GR/MR mRNA was also decreased after radiation exposure. Dexamethasone appeared to be much less effective in shifting GR to the nuclear compartment in irradiated rats than in sham-irradiated animals. However, the expression of chaperones that aid GR intracellular trafficking, Hsp90 and Hsp70, remained unaffected. In conclusion, our data suggest that the hallmark of the late response to y radiation is a hyposuppressive state of the HPA axis that is associated with a decrease in both the GR/MR ratio and the nuclear accumulation of dexamethasone-activated GR in the hippocampus. (c) 2008 by Radiation Research Society.