Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction in Apoe(-/-) mice: Possible role in behavioral and metabolic alterations

Jacob Raber, Susan F. Akana, Seema Bhatnagar, Mary F. Dallman, Derek Wong, Lennart Mucke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Several neurological diseases are frequently accompanied by dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis regulates the secretion of glucocorticoids (GCs), which play important roles in diverse brain functions, including cognition, emotion, and feeding. Under physiological conditions, GCs are adaptive and beneficial; however, prolonged elevations in GC levels may contribute to neurodegeneration and brain dysfunction. In the current study, we demonstrate that apolipoprotein E (apoE) deficiency results in age-dependent dysregulation of the HPA axis through a mechanism affecting primarily the adrenal gland. Apoe(-/-) mice, which develop neurodegenerative alterations as they age, had an age-dependent increase in basal adrenal corticosterone content and abnormally increased plasma corticosterone levels after restraint stress, whereas their plasma and pituitary adrenocorticotropin levels were either unchanged or lower than those in controls. HPA axis dysregulation was associated with behavioral and metabolic alterations. When anxiety levels ware assessed in the elevated plus maze, Apoe(-/-) mice showed more anxiety than wild-type controls. Apoe(-/-) mice also showed reduced activity in the open field. Finally, Apoe (-/-) mice showed age-dependent increases in food and water intake, stomach and body weights, and decreases in brown and white adipose tissues. These results support a key role for apoE in the tonic inhibition of steroidogenesis and HPA axis activity and have important implications for the behavioral analysis of Apoe(-/-) mice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2064-2071
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number5
StatePublished - Mar 1 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • ACTH
  • Adrenal gland
  • Anxiety
  • Corticosterone
  • HPA axis
  • Metabolism
  • Open field activity
  • Pituitary
  • apoE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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