Neuronal PAS domain 4 (NPAS4), a brain specific helix‐loop‐helix transcription factor, has recently been shown to regulate the development of GABAergic inhibitory neurons. We previously reported that Npas4 mRNA expression levels were reduced in the hippocampus of mice exposed to social isolation or restraint stress, which was accompanied by impairment of memory, emotional behavior, and hippocampal neurogenesis. Therefore, the reduction of NPAS4 expression may play a role in stress‐induced brain dysfunction. In the present study, to investigate the transcriptional regulation of Npas4 by stress, we focused on the effect of glucocorticoids (GCs) upon Npas4 transcription. Corticosterone treatment reduced Npas4 expression in the frontal cortex and hippocampus while adrenalectomy caused an increase in expression. GC receptor (GR) antagonist, mifepristone, inhibited the stress‐induced reduction of Npas4 expression. Putative negative glucocorticoid response elements (GREs) were found ‐2000 to ‐1000 upstream of the Npas4 transcription initiation site. Npas4 promoter activity was increased by mifepristone or by mutation of the negative GRE sequences. A chromatin immunoprecipitation assay revealed that restraint stress increased the binding of GR to Npas4 promoter region in the hippocampus. These results suggest that transcription of Npas4 is down‐regulated by stress via the binding of agonist‐bound GR to its promoter.
© 2012 International Society for Neurochemistry