OBJECTIVES: Early life psychological stress is an essential factor contributing to the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), with corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF) having been implicated in this common gastrointestinal disorder. The aim of our study is to examine the effect of neonatal maternal separation (NMS), an early life stress model, on the brain CRF expression following visceral pain induced by colorectal distension (CRD) stimuli in male rats.
METHODS: Male neonatal Sprague-Dawley rats were subjected to 3-hr daily maternal separation on postnatal day 2-21, with unseparated normal (N) rats serving as controls. Electromyogram signals (EMG) in response to phasic CRD were measured. The results demonstrated an increased pain response and EMG magnitudes in NMS rats as compared to N rats in response to CRD stimulation. The mRNA and protein expressions of CRF in hippocampus, cortex and thalamus of NMS and N group following the CRD stress were determined by real-time quantitative PCR and western-blotting studies respectively.
RESULTS: There was an increased mRNA and protein level of CRF in thalamus of NMS rats but no apparent change in CRF expression in hippocampus and cortex of both groups. Furthermore, an increased expression of CRF type 1 receptor (CRF-R1) was observed in the thalamus of NMS rats.
CONCLUSION: These results suggested an up-regulation of thalamus CRF-R1 is associated with visceral hyperalgesia in the rat model of NMS.