Molecular Medicine

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 212–222 | Cite as

Corticotropin-releasing Factor Receptor 2 Mediates Sex-Specific Cellular Stress Responses

  • Eric Kubat
  • Shilpi Mahajan
  • Min Liao
  • Larry Ackerman
  • Peter T. Ohara
  • Eileen F. Grady
  • Aditi Bhargava
Research Article


Although females suffer twice as much as males from stress-related disorders, sex-specific participating and pathogenic cellular stress mechanisms remain uncharacterized. Using corticotropin-releasing factor receptor 2-deficient (Crhr2−/−) and wild-type (WT) mice, we show that CRF receptor type 2 (CRF2) and its high-affinity ligand, urocortin 1 (Ucn1), are key mediators of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress response in a murine model of acute pancreatic inflammation. Ucn1 was expressed de novo in acinar cells of male, but not female WT mice during acute inflammation. Upon insult, acinar Ucn1 induction was markedly attenuated in male but not female Crhr2r−/− mice. Crhr2−/− mice of both sexes show exacerbated acinar cell inflammation and necrosis. Electron microscopy showed mild ER damage in WT male mice and markedly distorted ER structure in Crhr2−/− male mice during pancreatitis. WT and Crhr2−/− female mice showed similarly distorted ER ultrastructure that was less severe than distortion seen in Crhr2−/− male mice. Damage in ER structure was accompanied by increased ubiquitination, peIF2, and mis-targeted localization of vimentin in WT mice that was further exacerbated in Crhr2−/− mice of both sexes during pancreatitis. Exogenous Ucn1 rescued many aspects of histological damage and cellular stress response, including restoration of ER structure in male WT and Crhr2−/− mice, but not in females. Instead, females often showed increased damage. Thus, specific cellular pathways involved in coping and resolution seem to be distinct to each sex. Our results demonstrate the importance of identifying sex-specific pathogenic mechanisms and their value in designing effective therapeutics.



This work was supported through grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) grant R01-DK080787 and R01DK080787-02S1 (A Bhargava). E Kubat was a recipient of a T-32 NIH-NIDDK training grant DK07573-22/23. We thank Victoria Lyo for her expertise with the caerulein model and Pallavi Mhaske for technical help. We thank David Scheel in the German lab, UCSF for excellent technical help with paraffin sections. We thank Pamela Derish in the Department of Surgery at UCSF for critical reading of the manuscript. We thank Mary Stenzel-Poore at Oregon Health Sciences University for the generous gift of the WT and Crhr2−/− mice breeding pairs.

Supplementary material

10020_2013_1901212_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (3.3 mb)
Supplementary material, approximately 3.28 MB.


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Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric Kubat
    • 1
  • Shilpi Mahajan
    • 1
  • Min Liao
    • 1
  • Larry Ackerman
    • 2
  • Peter T. Ohara
    • 2
  • Eileen F. Grady
    • 1
  • Aditi Bhargava
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Surgery, Center for Neurobiology of Digestive Diseases, Med Sci 1268University of California San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Department of AnatomyUniversity of California San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

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