Chronic activation of NPFFR2 stimulates the stress-related depressive behaviors through HPA axis modulation

Ya Tin Lin, Tzu Yu Liu, Ching Yao Yang, Yu Lian Yu, Ting Chun Chen, Yuan Ji Day, Che Chien Chang, Guo Jen Huang, Jin Chung Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Neuropeptide FF (NPFF) is a morphine-modulating peptide that regulates the analgesic effect of opioids, and also controls food consumption and cardiovascular function through its interaction with two cognate receptors, NPFFR1 and NPFFR2. In the present study, we explore a novel modulatory role for NPFF-NPFFR2 in stress-related depressive behaviors. In a mouse model of chronic mild stress (CMS)-induced depression, the expression of NPFF significantly increased in the hypothalamus, hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) and amygdala. In addition, transgenic (Tg) mice over-expressing NPFFR2 displayed clear depression and anxiety-like behaviors with hyperactivity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, reduced expression of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Furthermore, acute treatment of NPFFR2 agonists in wild-type (WT) mice enhanced the activity of the HPA axis, and chronic administration resulted in depressive and anxiety-like behaviors. Chronic stimulation of NPFFR2 also decreased the expression of hippocampal GR and led to persistent activation of the HPA axis. Strikingly, bilateral intra-paraventricular nucleus (PVN) injection of NPFFR2 shRNA predominately inhibits the depressive-like behavior in CMS-exposed mice. Antidepressants, fluoxetine and ketamine, effectively relieved the depressive behaviors of NPFFR2-Tg mice. We speculate that persistent NPFFR2 activation, in particular in the hypothalamus, up-regulates the HPA axis and results in long-lasting increases in circulating corticosterone (CORT), consequently damaging hippocampal function. This novel role of NPFFR2 in regulating the HPA axis and hippocampal function provides a new avenue for combating depression and anxiety-like disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-85
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Sept 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis)
  • Neuropeptide FF (NPFF)
  • NPFFR2
  • Paraventricular nucleus (PVN)
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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