Chronic stress is increasingly considered to be a main risk factor for the development of a variety of psychiatric diseases such as depression. This is further supported by an impaired negative feedback of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which has been observed in the majority of depressed patients. The effects of glucocorticoids, the main hormonal endpoint of the HPA axis, are mediated via the glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and the mineralocorticoid receptor. The FK506-binding protein 51 (FKBP5), a co-chaperone of the Hsp90 and component of the chaperone-receptor heterocomplex, has been shown to reduce ligand sensitivity of the GR. This study aimed to investigate the function of FKBP5 as a possible mediator of the stress response system and its potential role in the development of stress-related diseases. Therefore, we assessed whether mice lacking the gene encoding FKBP5 (51KO mice) were less vulnerable to the adverse effects of three weeks of chronic social defeat stress. Mice were subsequently analyzed with regards to physiological, neuroendocrine, behavioral and mRNA expression alterations. Our results show a less vulnerable phenotype of 51KO mice with respect to physiological and neuroendocrine parameters compared to wild-type animals. 51KO mice demonstrated lower adrenal weights and basal corticosterone levels, a diminished response to a novel acute stimulus and an enhanced recovery, as well as more active stress-coping behavior. These results suggest an enhanced negative glucocorticoid feedback within the HPA axis of 51KO mice, possibly modulated by an increased sensitivity of the GR. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Anxiety and Depression'.
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