Pituitary adenylate cyclase-activating polypeptide (PACAP) is a highly conserved pleiotropic neuropeptide that functions as a neurotransmitter, neuromodulator and neurotrophic factor. Accumulating evidence implicates PACAP as an important regulator of both central and/or peripheral components of the stress axes, particularly exposure to prolonged or traumatic stress. Indeed, PACAP and its cognate receptors are widely expressed in the brain regions and peripheral tissues that mediate stress-related responses. In the sympathoadrenomedullary system, PACAP is required for sustained epinephrine secretion during metabolic stress. It is likely that PACAP regulates autonomic function and contributes to peripheral homeostasis by maintaining a balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic activity, favoring stimulation of the sympathetic system. Furthermore, PACAP is thought to act centrally on the paraventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus to regulate both the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the sympathetic nervous system. Intriguingly, PACAP is also active in brain structures that mediate anxiety- and fear-related behaviors, and the expression of PACAP and its receptors are dynamically altered under pathologic conditions. Thus PACAP may influence both hard-wired (genetically determined) stress responses and gene-environment interactions in stress-related psychopathology. This article aims to overview the molecular mechanisms and psychiatric implications of PACAP-dependent stress responses.
Keywords: Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, PACAP, paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus, post-traumatic disorder (PTSD), psychiatric disorders, stress, sympathoadrenomedullary system, sympathetic nervous system, sympathoadrenomedullary, stressors, colocalize, protochordates, cognate, magnocellular, oxytocin, immunostaining, catecholaminergic, norepinephrine, chromaffin, adrenocorticotropin, osteosarcoma, schizophrenia