A growing body of evidence suggests that excess stress could aggravate tumor progression. The paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus plays an important role in the adaptation to stress because the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis can be activated by inducing the release of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) from the PVN. In this study, we used pharmacogenetic techniques to investigate whether concomitant activation of CRHPVN neurons could directly contribute to tumor progression. Tumor growth was significantly promoted by repeated activation of CRHPVN neurons, which was followed by an increase in the plasma levels of corticosterone. Consistent with these results, chronic administration of glucocorticoids induced tumor progression. Under the concomitant activation of CRHPVN neurons, the number of cytotoxic CD8+ T cells in the tumor microenvironment was dramatically decreased, and the mRNA expression levels of hypoxia inducible factor 1 subunit α (HIF1α), glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and Tsc22d3 were upregulated in inhibitory lymphocytes, tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) and myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). Furthermore, the mRNA levels of various kinds of driver molecules related to tumor progression and tumor metastasis were prominently elevated in cancer cells by concomitant activation of CRHPVN neurons. These findings suggest that repeated activation of the PVN-CRHergic system may aggravate tumor growth through a central–peripheral-associated tumor immune system.
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