Two receptor systems for corticosterone in rat brain: microdistribution and differential occupation

J M Reul, E R de Kloet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

2164 Citations (Scopus)


Two receptor systems for corticosterone (CORT) can be distinguished in rat brain: mineralocorticoid-like or CORT receptors (CR) and glucocorticoid receptors (GR). The microdistribution and extent of occupation of each receptor population by CORT were studied. The CR system is restricted predominantly to the lateral septum and hippocampus. Within the hippocampus, the highest density occurs in the subiculum +/- CA1 cell field (144 fmol/mg protein) and the dentate gyrus (104 fmol/mg protein). Affinity of CR for CORT was very high (Kd, approximately 0.5 nM). The GR system has a more widespread distribution in the brain. The highest density for GR is in the lateral septum (195 fmol/mg protein), the dentate gyrus (133 fmol/mg protein), the nucleus tractus solitarii and central amygdala. Substantial amounts of GR are present in the paraventricular nucleus and locus coeruleus and low amounts in the raphe area and the subiculum + CA1 cell field. The affinity of GR for CORT (Kd, approximately 2.5-5 nM) was 6- to 10-fold lower than that of CR. Occupation of CR by endogenous ligand was 89.5% during morning trough levels of pituitary-adrenal activity (plasma CORT, 1.4 micrograms/100 ml). Similar levels of occupation (88.7% and 97.6%) were observed at the diurnal peak (plasma CORT, 27 micrograms/100 ml) and after 1 h of restraint stress (plasma CORT, 25 micrograms/100 ml), respectively. Furthermore, a dose of 1 microgram CORT/100 g BW, sc, resulted in 80% CORT receptor occupation, whereas GR were not occupied. For 50% occupation of GR, doses needed to be increased to 50-100 micrograms/100 g BW, and for 95% occupation, a dose of 1 mg CORT was required. The plasma CORT level at the time of half-maximal GR occupation was about 25 micrograms/100 ml, which is in the range of levels attained after stress or during the diurnal peak of pituitary-adrenal activity. Thus, CR are extensively filled (greater than 90%) with endogenous CORT under most circumstances, while GR become occupied concurrent with increasing plasma CORT concentrations due to stress or diurnal rhythm. We conclude that CORT action via CR may be involved in a tonic (permissive) influence on brain function with the septohippocampal complex as a primary target. In view of the almost complete occupation of CR by endogenous hormones, the regulation of the CORT signal via CR will, most likely, be by alterations in the number of such receptors. In contrast, CORT action via GR is involved in its feedback action on stress-activated brain mechanisms, and GR occur widely in the brain.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2505-11
Number of pages7
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1985


  • Adrenalectomy
  • Aldosterone
  • Androstanols
  • Animals
  • Brain
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Hippocampus
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred Strains
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Receptors, Mineralocorticoid
  • Receptors, Steroid
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Tissue Distribution


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