William C. Engeland, PhD

Professor, Department of Neuroscience

William C. Engeland

Contact Info


Office Phone 612-625-4976

Office Address:
3-162 Jackson Hall

Lab Address:
4-116 Jackson Hall


Research Summary/Interests

Neuroendocrinology of stress

The focus of the laboratory is to delineate neuroendocrine mechanisms for the control of adrenal secretion of glucocorticoids, the major output of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. One goal is to define the role of adrenal innervation on the control of glucocorticoid secretion. The secretion of the adrenal cortex is dependent on the pituitary hormone, ACTH. Our work has shown that autonomic neural activity contributes to circadian and stress-induced corticosteroid secretion by modulating steroidogenic responses to ACTH, but the central and peripheral neural pathways involved have not been delineated.

To characterize the central neural substrate for circadian changes in glucocorticoids, a combination of a physiological and neuroanatomical methods are employed; plasma ACTH, vasopressin and adrenal steroids are measured and double-label immunohistochemistry and retrograde labeling are used to define the phenotype of neurons activated as a function of time of day. The hypothesis to be tested is that neurons in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus receive input from the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) and project to the spinal cord to provide inhibitory and excitatory input to the adrenal cortex that drives the circadian rhythm.

Other studies are determining the central and peripheral mechanisms that control rapid decreases in glucocorticoids. By active removal of a stressor, rehydration after water restriction or feeding after food restriction are viewed as unique models for assessing processes invoked to reduce stress as reflected by decreases in HPA activity. Using Fos immunohistochemistry coupled with phenotypic labeling, our studies have identified a unique pattern of neural activity in the PVN induced by drinking after repeated water restriction that is not observed after a single episode of water deprivation. Experiments will incorporate microdialysis with CE-LIF detection to determine neurotransmitters released in the PVN that mediate changes in neural and endocrine responses. The goal of this work is to identify central neural circuits controlling HPA activity that could be mobilized to reduce the deleterious effects of stress.


For a list of publications, see PubMed.



NSCI 6110: Neuroscience for Dental Students (Spring semester)