Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) over-expression down-regulates hippocampal dopamine receptor protein expression and CREB activation in mice.
Overproduction of corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), the major mediator of the stress response, has been linked to anxiety, depression and addiction. CRF excess results in increased arousal, anxiety and altered cognition in rodents. The ability to adapt to a potentially threatening stimulus is crucial for survival, and impaired adaptation may underlie stress-related psychiatric disorders. Therefore, we examined the effects of chronic transgenic neural CRF overproduction on behavioural adaptation to repeated exposure to a non-home cage environment. We report that CRF transgenic mice show impaired adaptation in locomotor response to the novel open field. In contrast to wild-type (WT) mice, anxiety-related behaviour of CRF transgenic mice does not change during repeated exposure to the same environment over the period of 7 days or at retest 1 week later. We found that locomotor response to novelty correlates significantly with total locomotor activity and activity in the centre at the last day of testing and at retest in WT but not in CRF transgenic mice. Mice were divided into low responders and high responders on the basis of their initial locomotor response to novelty. We found that differences in habituation and re-exposure response are related to individual differences in locomotor response to novelty. In summary, these results show that CRF transgenic mice are fundamentally different from WT in their ability to adapt to an environmental stressor. This may be related to individual differences in stress reactivity. These findings have implications for our understanding of the role of CRF overproduction in behavioural maladaptation and stress-related psychiatric disorders.