• avian;
  • corticosterone;
  • glucocorticoid receptor;
  • hippocampus;
  • hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis;
  • chronic stress

Although the glucocorticoid response to acute short-term stress is an adaptive physiological mechanism that aids in the response to and survival of noxious stimuli, chronic stress is associated with a negative impact on health. In wild-caught European starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), chronic stress alters the responsiveness of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis as measured by the acute corticosterone response. In the present study, we investigated potential underlying neuroendocrine mechanisms by comparing glucocorticoid receptor and mineralocorticoid receptor mRNA expression in the brains of chronically and nonchronically-stressed starlings. Hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, but not hippocampal, glucocorticoid receptor mRNA expression in chronically-stressed birds was significantly lower compared to controls, suggesting changes in the efficacy of corticosterone negative feedback. In addition, chronically-stressed birds showed a significant decrease in hippocampal MR mRNA expression. Together, these results suggest that chronic stress changes the brain physiology of wild birds and provides important information for the understanding of the underlying mechanisms that result in dysregulation of the HPA axis in wild animals by chronic stress.