MR/GR Signaling in the Brain during the Stress Response
This contribution is about mineralocorticoid receptors (MRs) in their capacity as mediators of glucocorticoid action in the brain. This paradox has evolved because MRs are promiscuous and bind with high-affinity cortisol and corticosterone as well as aldosterone, deoxycorticosterone, and progesterone. The MRs “see,” however, predominantly glucocorticoids, because of their 100–1000-fold excess over aldosterone; bioavailability is further enhanced because of local regeneration of glucocorticoids by 11βOH-steroid dehydrogenase (HSD-1). In contrast to these glucocorticoid-preferring MR, the evolutionary later appearance of aldosterone-selective MR in epithelial cells depends on co-localization with the oxidase 11β-hydroxysteroid-dehydrogenase type 2 (HSD-2) in a few hundred neurons in the nucleus tractus solitarii (NTS), which innervate frontal brain regions to regulate cognitive, emotional, and motivational aspects of salt appetite. The glucocorticoid-MRs and classical glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) mediate in a complementary manner the glucocorticoid coordination of circadian events and mediate the regulation of stress coping and adaptation. If an individual is exposed to a threat, MRs are crucial for the selection of a particular coping style, which is via GR activation subsequently stored in the memory for future use. Our contribution is concluded with the notion that an imbalance in MR- and GR-mediated actions increases susceptibility to stress-related disorders.