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Effects of transgenic overproduction of CRH on anxiety-like behaviour


  • * Present address: Research Institute Neurosciences VU, Department of Medical Pharmacology, VUmc, Van der Boechorststraat 7, 1081 BT Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Central administration of corticotropin-releasing hormone increases anxiety-like behaviour and arousal in rodents, and increased anxiety-like behaviour has been shown in mice overproducing corticotropin-releasing hormone on an elevated plus maze and in a dark–light emergence task. However, evidence is accumulating that measures obtained from different anxiety tasks may reflect different aspects of anxiety-like behaviour in animals. We therefore tested mice overproducing corticotropin-releasing hormone in a battery of paradigms, studying spontaneous behaviour after a mild stressor, tasks of innate anxiety-like behaviour (light–dark box), lick suppression (Vogel conflict), conditioned fear, and forced swimming. Exploratory behaviour was studied in a 16-hole board task. Furthermore, pain threshold, water intake, locomotor activity and sensorimotor learning/co-ordination were tested to control for confounding factors. In line with previous findings, increased anxiety-like behaviour of transgenic mice was observed in the light–dark box paradigm. However, no differences were seen in the conflict paradigm. Conditioned fear was decreased 1 h but not 24 h after conditioning in transgenic mice, and immobility was increased in forced swimming in corticotropin-releasing hormone overexpressors. Locomotor activity in a novel open field and on the hole board was reduced in transgenics. Exploratory behaviour (hole pokes) was reduced during initial exploration of an unfamiliar hole board. Moreover, sensorimotor performance on a rotorod was impaired, and water intake was reduced in corticotropin-releasing hormone overproducing mice, while no changes were seen in nociception. No differences in locomotor activity were seen in a second group of mice, tested in a familiar open field. When these animals were challenged with diazepam, transgenic mice were less susceptible to the sedative effects of the drug on locomotor activity. These data suggest that corticotropin-releasing hormone overproduction leads to specific effects in a subset of anxiety paradigms, and that these transgenic mice suffer from a motor deficit in addition to altered anxiety-like behaviour/arousal.