BACKGROUND AND PURPOSEThe functional characterization of secreted peptides can provide the basis for the development of novel therapeutic agents. Augurin is a recently identified secreted peptide of unknown function expressed in multiple endocrine tissues, and in regions of the brain including the hypothalamus. We therefore investigated the effect of hypothalamic injection of augurin on the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in male Wistar rats.EXPERIMENTAL APPROACHAugurin was given as a single injection into the third cerebral ventricle (i.c.v.) or into the paraventricular nucleus (iPVN) of the hypothalamus. Circulating hormone levels were then measured by radioimmunoassay. The effect of augurin on the release of hypothalamic neuropeptides was investigated ex vivo using hypothalamic explants. The acute effects of iPVN augurin on behaviour were also assessed.KEY RESULTSi.c.v. injection of augurin significantly increased plasma ACTH and corticosterone, compared with vehicle-injected controls, but had no effect on other hypothalamo-pituitary axes hormones. Microinjection of lower doses of augurin into the PVN caused a similar increase in plasma ACTH and corticosterone, without significant alteration in behavioural patterns. Incubation of hypothalamic explants with increasing doses of augurin significantly elevated corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) and arginine vasopressin release. In vivo, peripheral injection of a CRF(1/2) receptor antagonist prevented the rise in ACTH and corticosterone caused by i.c.v. augurin injection.CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONSThese data suggest that augurin stimulates the release of ACTH via the release of hypothalamic CRF. Pharmacological manipulation of the augurin system may therefore be a novel target for regulation of the HPA axis.