Molecular Neuroendocrinology

Group 22
Leader: Krisztina Kovács

Our goal is to identify, at systems, cellular and molecular levels, pathways and mechanisms that regulate and coordinate autonomic, neuroendocrine and immune responses to internal and external challenges at the hypothalamic level.

Neurosecretory cells of the hypothalamus receive afferent neural inputs from all sensory modalities of the central nervous system and express receptors for circulating signaling molecules such as steroid hormones, metabolic and immune signals. Hypothalamic neurons are in the position to integrate this information and to generate a relevant output command to neuronal and humoral effectors in response to various external and internal stimuli. These functions are all represented in the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, where neurosecretory neurons of the medial dorsal parvocellular subdivision supply the corticotropin-releasing hormone and various other neuropeptides to the pituitary portal circulation to initiate the neuroendorcine stress cascade, magnocellular neurosecretory cells that respond to osmotic challenges and autonomic projection neurons that give to long descending pathways to the brain stem and spinal cord.

Using molecular biological techniques, the regulation of expression of the corticotropin-releasing hormone and arginine vasopressin genes are studied in vivo and in vitro, in organotypic cultures of hypothalamic slices. Cells and circuitries that are recruited in response to various physical, psychological and immune challenges are mapped using functional anatomical methods. Transcription factors and their interactions regulating stress-related gene expression in the hypothalamus are examined. We study the mechanisms that constrain the activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis with special attention on the neurotransmitter GABA and the negative feedback effect of the glucocorticoid hormones. We aim to elucidate the role of peripheral metabolic signals in coordination of bodily responses to stress.

The results may contribute to the understanding of various stress-related disorders such as hypertension, auto-immune diseases, affective and eating disorders, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic and anxiety.

Excerpt from the Guidebook of the Institute 2015.

Lab members:

Krisztina KovácsGroup Leader, Scientific Advisor
Szilamér FerencziSenior Research Fellow
Zsuzsanna WinklerAssistant Research Fellow
Dániel KutiAssistant Research Fellow
Ágnes PolyákAssistant Research Fellow
Dóra KőváriPhD Student
Krisztina HorváthUndergraduate Student
Balázs JuhászUndergraduate Student
Laura SvajdaUndergraduate Student