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Urocortin 2 expression in the rat gastrointestinal tract under basal conditions and in chemical colitis

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.peptides.2007.05.008
  • Urocortin 2
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Factor Receptor 2
  • Inflammation
  • Cytokine
  • Rat
  • Gastrointestinal Tract
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Chemistry


Abstract It is becoming increasingly evident that the urocortins (Ucns) and their receptors are involved in the initiation and development of inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. There has not been a systematic study of the basal expression of Ucns or their receptors in the GI tract. Here, we examined basal expression of Ucn 2 and its high-affinity receptor, CRF-R2 in the rat GI tract. Ucn 2 mRNA was expressed throughout the small and large intestine. Surprisingly, CRF-R2 mRNA expression was detected in only a subset of GI regions that expressed Ucn 2. Immunohistochemical study showed that both Ucn 2 immuno-reactivity (Ucn 2-IR) and CRF-R2-IR were consistently seen in the neurons of the myenteric plexus and the nerve fibers innervating the circular muscle. By and large, Ucn 2-IR was detected in all layers, including the mucosal and the submucosal layers throughout the GI regions. In contrast, CRF-R2-IR was very low or undetectable in the mucosal layers of all regions examined. The role of Ucn 2 and CRF-R2 was then examined in a rat model of chemically-induced colitis. In the early phase of colitis, Ucn 2 mRNA levels peaked, whereas, in striking contrast, CRF-R2 mRNA expression decreased ∼2.5-fold below control levels. At the peptide level, Ucn 2-IR was specifically induced in a large population of immune cells that infiltrated the lamina propria and submucosa of the distal colon, whereas CRFR2-IR was detected in only a small fraction of infiltrated immune cells. CRF-R2-IR was dramatically reduced in the neurons of the myenteric plexus. Thus, we show, for the first time, that in the acute phase of inflammation, Ucn 2 levels are increased whereas expression levels of its only identified receptor, CRF-R2, are decreased. This suggests that Ucn 2 exerts its effects only in part via CRF-R2.

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