A major risk factor for major depressive disorder (MDD) is stress. Stress leads to the release of high-mobility group box-1 (HMGB1), which in turn leads to neuroinflammation, a potential pathophysiological basis of MDD. The mechanism underlying stress-induced HMGB1 release is not known, but stress-associated glucocorticoids could be involved. To test this, rat primary cultured cortical astrocytes, the most abundant cell type in the central nervous system (CNS), were treated with corticosterone and HMGB1 release was assessed by Western blotting and ELISA. Significant HMGB1 was released with treatment with either corticosterone or dexamethasone, a synthetic glucocorticoid. HMGB1 translocated from the nucleus to the cytoplasm following corticosterone treatment. HMGB1 release was significantly attenuated with glucocorticoid receptor blocking. In addition, inhibition of pannexin-1, and P2X7 receptors led to a significant decrease in corticosterone-induced HMGB1 release. Taken together, corticosterone stimulates astrocytic glucocorticoid receptors and triggers cytoplasmic translocation and extracellular release of nuclear HMGB1 through a mechanism involving pannexin-1 and P2X7 receptors. Thus, under conditions of stress, glucocorticoids induce astrocytic HMGB1 release, leading to a neuroinflammatory state that could mediate neurological disorders such as MDD.
- major depressive disorder