Previous studies have shown that the medial prefrontal cortex can suppress the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to stress. However, this effect appears to vary with the type of stressor. Furthermore, the absence of direct projections between the medial prefrontal cortex and corticotropin-releasing factor cells at the apex of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis suggest that other brain regions must act as a relay when this inhibitory mechanism is activated. In the present study, we first established that electrolytic lesions involving the prelimbic and infralimbic medial prefrontal cortex increased plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone levels seen in response to a physical stressor, the systemic delivery of interleukin-1beta. However, medial prefrontal cortex lesions did not alter plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone levels seen in response to a psychological stressor, noise. To identify brain regions that might mediate the effect of medial prefrontal cortex lesions on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis responses to systemic interleukin-1beta, we next mapped the effects of similar lesions on interleukin-1beta-induced Fos expression in regions previously shown to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to this stressor. It was found that medial prefrontal cortex lesions reduced the number of Fos-positive cells in the ventral aspect of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis. However, the final experiment, which involved combining retrograde tracing with Fos immunolabelling, revealed that bed nucleus of the stria terminalis-projecting medial prefrontal cortex neurons were largely separate from medial prefrontal cortex neurons recruited by systemic interleukin-1beta, an outcome that is difficult to reconcile with a simple medial prefrontal cortex-bed nucleus of the stria terminalis-corticotropin-releasing factor cell control circuit.
Crane, J. W., Ebner, K., & Day, T. A. (2003). Medial prefrontal cortex suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to a physical stressor, systemic delivery of interleukin-1beta. European Journal of Neuroscience, 17(7), 1473-1481. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1460-9568.2003.02568.x