, Volume 26, Issue 4-6, pp 733-752
Date: 12 May 2006

Gene Expression of Phenylethanolamine N-Methyltransferase in Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone Knockout Mice During Stress Exposure

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1. Aims: Epinephrine (EPI) synthesizing enzyme phenylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PNMT, EC is primarily localized in the adrenal medulla (AM). We have recently described existence of the PNMT gene expression in cardiac atria and ventricles and in sympathetic ganglia of adult rats and mice. The aim of the present work was to study regulation of the PNMT gene expression in corticotropin-releasing hormone knockout mice (CRH KO) and matched control wild-type mice (WT) under normal and stress conditions.

2. Methods: Levels of the PNMT mRNA were determined by RT-PCR; PNMT immunoprotein and protein of transcription factor EGR-1 by Western Blot. Plasma EPI and corticosterone (CORT) levels were determined by radioenzymatic and RIA methods. Immobilization (IMMO) was used as a stressor.

3. Results: Stress-induced increases in the PNMT mRNA and protein levels observed in WT mice were almost completely absent in CRH KO mouse adrenal medulla, stellate ganglia, and cardiac atria, while ventricular PNMT mRNA elevation was not CRH-dependent. Plasma EPI and CORT levels were markedly reduced in CRH KO compared to WT mice both before and after the stress. Levels of EGR-1, crucial transcription factor for regulation of the PNMT were highly increased in stressed WT and CRH KO mice in cardiac areas, but not in the adrenal medulla.

4. Conclusions: Data show that the CRH deficiency can markedly prevent immobilization-triggered induction of the PNMT mRNA and protein levels in the adrenal medulla and stellate ganglia. Reduced plasma epinephrine and corticosterone levels and adrenal medullary EGR-1 protein levels in CRH knockout versus WT mice during stress indicate that the HPA axis plays a crucial role in regulation of the PNMT gene expression in these organs.

Cardiac atrial PNMT gene expression with stress is also dependent on intact HPA axis. However, in cardiac ventricles, especially after the single stress exposure, its expression is not impaired by CRH deficiency. Since cardiac EGR-1 protein levels in CRH KO mice are also not affected by the single stress exposure, we propose existence of different regulation of the PNMT gene expression, especially in the cardiac ventricles.

Overall, our findings reveal that the PNMT gene expression is regulated through the HPA in both sympathoadrenal system and the heart and also via EGR-1 in the adrenal medulla, but apparently not in the heart. Regulation of the PNMT gene expression in various compartments of heart includes both corticosterone-dependent and independent mechanisms.