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Sexually dimorphic metabolic responses mediated by CRF2 receptor during nutritional stress in mice.



Chronic stress is a major contributor in the development of metabolic syndrome and associated diseases, such as diabetes. High-fat diet (HFD) and sex are known modifiers of metabolic parameters. Peptide hormones corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) and urocortins (UCN) mediate stress responses via activation and feedback to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. UCN3 is a marker of pancreatic β-cell differentiation, and UCN2 is known to ameliorate glucose levels in mice rendered diabetic with HFD. CRF receptor 2 (CRF2) is the only known cognate receptor for UCN2/3. Here, we ascertained the role of CRF2 in glucose clearance, insulin sensitivity, and other parameters associated with metabolic syndrome in a mouse model of nutritional stress.


Wild-type (WT) and Crhr2-/- (null) mice of both sexes were fed either normal chow diet or HFD. After 8 weeks, blood glucose levels in response to glucose and insulin challenge were determined. Change in body and fat mass, plasma insulin, and lipid profile were assessed. Histological evaluation of liver sections was performed.


Here, we show that genotype (Crhr2), sex, and diet were all independent variables in the regulation of blood glucose levels, body and fat mass gain/redistribution, and insulin resistance. Surprisingly, CRF2-deficient mice (Crhr2-/-) male mice showed similarly impaired glucose clearance on HFD and chow. HFD-fed female Crhr2-/- mice redistributed their fat depots that were distinct from wild-type females and male mice on either diet. Blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels were elevated significantly in male Crhr2-/- mice; female Crhr2-/- mice were protected. Male, but not female Crhr2-/- mice developed peripheral insulin resistance. HFD, but not chow-fed wild-type male mice developed hepatic macrovesicular steatosis. In contrast, livers of Crhr2-/- male mice showed microvesicular steatosis on either diet, whereas livers of female mice on this 8-week HFD regimen did not develop steatosis.


CRF2 receptor dysregulation is a sexually dimorphic risk factor in development of pre-diabetic and metabolic symptoms.

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