To examine mechanisms responsible for sex differences in hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis responsiveness to stress, we studied the role of androgens in the regulation of the adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and corticosterone (CORT) responses to foot shock and novelty stressors in gonadectomized (GDX) or intact male F344 rats. Foot shock or exposure to a novel open field increased plasma ACTH and CORT, which was significantly greater in GDX vs. intacts. Testosterone (T) or dihydrotestosterone propionate (DHT) treatment of GDX animals returned poststress levels of ACTH and CORT to intact levels. Estrogen treatment of GDX males further increased poststress CORT secretion above GDX levels. There was no difference in the ACTH response of anterior pituitaries from intact, GDX, and GDX + DHT animals to CRF using an in vitro perifusion system. There were no differences in βmax or binding affinity of type I or II CORT receptors in the hypothalamus or hippocampus of intact, GDX, or GDX + DHT groups. These data demonstrate an effect of GDX on hormonal indices of stress. The increased response in GDX rats appears to be due to the release from androgen receptor mediated inhibition of the HPA axis. This inhibition by androgen is not due to changes in anterior pituitary sensitivity to CRH, nor to changes in type I or type II corticosteroid receptor concentrations.
- Glucocorticoid receptor
- Mineralocorticoid receptor