Dexamethasone exposure affects paraventricular nucleus and pituitary corticotrophs in female rat fetuses: An unbiased stereological and immunohistochemical study.
Article (Published version)
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.
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The hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) drives the stress response by activating the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, particularly vulnerable to glucocorticoid exposure during development. To evaluate the effects of fetal dexamethasone (Dx) exposure on the stereological features of PVN and HPA axis activity in female rat fetuses, pregnant rats received 0.5mg Dx/kg/b.w./day on days 16, 17 and 18 of pregnancy and 21-day-old fetuses were obtained; controls received the same volume of saline. In an unbiased stereological approach, Cavalieri's principle and an optical fractionator were used for estimating volume and total cell number of the PVN, respectively. The intensity of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) immunoreactivity in the median eminence (ME) was determined by CRH optical density and the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) relative fluorescence signal intensity (RIF) in pituitary corticotrophs was measured using Image J. Significant reductions (p<0.05) in PVN volume and cell number were found in fetuses exposed to Dx. Additionally, CRH optical density in the ME and ACTH RIF (p<0.05) in the corticotrophs were decreased. The established results suggest that the reduced number of cells in the PVN after maternal Dx administration negatively affects the CRH content in the ME and the ACTH quantity in pituitary corticotrophs in near-term fetuses.
Keywords:ACTH; CRH; Dexamethasone; Fetus; Paraventricular nucleus; Programming
In: Tissue & cell (2016), 48(5): 516-23