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Open access

Peter Ergang, Anna Mikulecká, Martin Vodicˇka, Karla Vagnerová, Ivan Mikšík and Jirˇí Pácha

Stress is an important risk factors for human diseases. It activates the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and increases plasma glucocorticoids, which are powerful regulators of immune system. The response of the target cells to glucocorticoids depends not only on the plasma concentrations of cortisol and corticosterone but also on their local metabolism. This metabolism is catalyzed by 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenases type 1 and 2, which interconvert glucocorticoid hormones cortisol and corticosterone and their 11-oxo metabolites cortisone and 11-dehydrocorticosterone. The goal of this study was to determine whether stress modulates glucocorticoid metabolism within lymphoid organs – the structures where immune cells undergo development and activation. Using the resident-intruder paradigm, we studied the effect of social stress on glucocorticoid metabolism in primary and secondary lymphoid organs of Fisher 344 (F344) and Lewis (LEW) rats, which exhibit marked differences in their HPA axis response to social stressors and inflammation. We show that repeated social defeat increased the regeneration of corticosterone from 11-dehydrocorticosterone in the thymus, spleen and mesenteric lymphatic nodes (MLN). Compared with the F344 strain, LEW rats showed higher corticosterone regeneration in splenocytes of unstressed rats and in thymic and MLN mobile cells after stress but corticosterone regeneration in the stroma of all lymphoid organs was similar in both strains. Inactivation of corticosterone to 11-dehydrocorticosterone was found only in the stroma of lymphoid organs but not in mobile lymphoid cells and was not upregulated by stress. Together, our findings demonstrate the tissue- and strain-dependent regeneration of glucocorticoids following social stress.

Open access

S U Jayasinghe, S J Torres, C A Nowson, A J Tilbrook and A I Turner

We tested the hypothesis that overweight/obese men aged 50–70 years will have a greater salivary cortisol, salivary alpha amylase and heart rate (HR) responses to psychological stress compared with age matched lean men. Lean (BMI=20–25 kg/m2; n=19) and overweight/obese (BMI=27–35 kg/m2; n=17) men (50–70 years) were subjected to a well-characterised psychological stress (Trier Social Stress Test, TSST) at 1500 h. Concentrations of cortisol and alpha amylase were measured in saliva samples collected every 7–15 min from 1400 to 1700 h. HR was recorded using electrocardiogram. Body weight, BMI, percentage body fat, resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure and mean arterial pressure were significantly higher (P<0.05) in overweight/obese men compared with lean men. Both groups responded to the TSST with a substantial elevation in salivary cortisol (372%), salivary alpha amylase (123%) and HR (22%). These responses did not differ significantly between the groups (time×treatment interaction for salivary cortisol, salivary alpha amylase and HR; P=0.187, P=0.288, P=0.550, respectively). There were no significant differences between the groups for pretreatment values, peak height, difference between pretreatment values and peak height (reactivity) or area under the curve for salivary cortisol, salivary alpha amylase or HR (P>0.05 for all). The results showed that, for men with a moderate level of overweight/obesity who were otherwise healthy, the response of salivary cortisol, salivary alpha amylase and HR to acute psychological stress was not impaired.

Open access

Carlo Cinque, Manuela Zinni, Anna Rita Zuena, Chiara Giuli, Sebastiano G Alemà, Assia Catalani, Paola Casolini and Roberto Cozzolino

Knowledge of animals’ hormonal status is important for conservation studies in wild or semi-free-ranging conditions as well as for behavioural and clinical experiments conducted in laboratory research, mostly performed on rats and mice. Faecal sampling is a useful non-invasive method to obtain steroid hormone assessments. Nevertheless, in laboratory studies, unlike other contexts, faecal sampling is less utilised. One of the issues raised is the necessity to collect samples belonging to different animals, separately. Usually, researchers using faecal sampling solve this problem through the isolation of animals or taking the cage rather than single animal as unit of study. These solutions though, could lead to unreliable measurements, and cannot be applied in many studies. Our aim was to show the biological reliability of individual faecal corticosterone metabolite (FCM) assessments in socially housed male and female Wistar rats. We analytically validated the enzyme immunoassay kit used for FCM assessments. Then, we exposed the animals to two different stress stimuli that are known to activate the hypothalamus–pituitary–adrenal axis and the following release of corticosterone to biologically validate the EIA kit: environmental enrichment and predator odour. Individual faecal sampling from social animals was collected through short-time handling. The results demonstrated that both the stimuli increased FCM levels in male and female rats showing the reliability of EIA kit assessment and the applicability of our sampling method. We also found a diurnal rhythm in FCM levels. These results could help to increase the use of faecal hormone metabolite determinations in studies conducted on rats.

Open access

Janko Sattler, Jinwen Tu, Shihani Stoner, Jingbao Li, Frank Buttgereit, Markus J Seibel, Hong Zhou and Mark S Cooper

Patients with chronic immune-mediated arthritis exhibit abnormal hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity. The basis for this abnormality is not known. Immune-mediated arthritis is associated with increased extra-adrenal synthesis of active glucocorticoids by the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) enzyme. 11β-HSD1 is expressed in the central nervous system, including regions involved in HPA axis regulation. We examined whether altered 11β-HSD1 expression within these regions contributes to HPA axis dysregulation during arthritis. The expression of 11β-HSD1, and other components of glucocorticoid signaling, were examined in various brain regions and the pituitary gland of mice with experimentally induced arthritis. Two arthritis protocols were employed: The K/BxN spontaneous arthritis model for chronic arthritis and the K/BxN serum transfer arthritis model for acute arthritis. 11β-HSD1 mRNA (Hsd11b1) was expressed in the hippocampus, hypothalamus, cortex, cerebellum and pituitary gland. Hypothalamic Hsd11b1 expression did not change in response to arthritis in either model. Pituitary Hsd11b1 expression was however significantly increased in both chronic and acute arthritis models. Hippocampal Hsd11b1 was decreased in acute but not chronic arthritis. Chronic, but not acute, arthritis was associated with a reduction in hypothalamic corticotropin-releasing hormone and arginine vasopressin expression. In both models, serum adrenocorticotropic hormone and corticosterone levels were no different from non-inflammatory controls. These findings demonstrate inflammation-dependent regulation of Hsd11b1 expression in the pituitary gland and hippocampus. The upregulation of 11β-HSD1 expression in the pituitary during both chronic and acute arthritis, and thus, an increase in glucocorticoid negative feedback, could contribute to the abnormalities in HPA axis activity seen in immune-mediated arthritis.

Open access

Andrew R Dismukes, Vanessa J Meyer, Elizabeth A Shirtcliff, Katherine P Theall, Kyle C Esteves and Stacy S Drury

The current investigation examined the association between the aging-related biomarkers dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and telomere length (TL) in community-recruited African-American youth. The examination of DHEA included stress reactive, basal and diurnal sampling, in order to elucidate the underlying physiological process that may overlap with TL. One hundred and two participants completed the Trier Social Stressor Test for children (TSST-C). TL was obtained from all youth from buccal swabs on the same day as the TSST-C. Saliva samples from 83 participants were obtained over the course of two additional days to measure waking and diurnal levels of DHEA. DHEA diurnal slope was a robust predictor of TL (B=0.516, P<0.05), while other DHEA values were not significantly associated with TL. This study is one of the first studies to examine basal, diurnal and reactivity measurements of DHEA in youth. Furthermore, this is the first study, to our knowledge, to demonstrate a positive association between DHEA, a putative anti-aging hormone, and TL, an indicator of cellular aging.

Open access

Natasha Bergmann, Søren Ballegaard, Pernille Holmager, Per Bech, Åke Hjalmarson, Finn Gyntelberg and Jens Faber

The aim of this study was to test i) whether patients having diabetes and ischemic heart disease (IHD), i.e., patients suffering from two chronic diseases, demonstrate a higher degree of chronic stress when compared with patients suffering from IHD alone, and ii) whether suffering from the two chronic diseases results in an elevation in specific elements of the chronic stress concept. A total of 361 participants with IHD were included, of whom 47 suffered from concomitant diabetes. Stress was measured by pressure pain sensitivity (PPS) and by the following questionnaires: the Major Depression Inventory (MDI), the SF-36 Quality of Life questionnaire (SF-36 QOL), the WHO-5 Well-being Index, and the clinical stress signs (CSSs) scale. Participants with diabetes and IHD had a higher MDI score, a lower SF-36 physical component summary score, and a lower score of several sub-measurements of the SF-36 mental component score when compared with patients with IHD without diabetes. No significant differences were observed regarding stress measured by the PPS measure, the WHO-5 Well-being Index, or the number of CSSs. In conclusion, the combination of diabetes and IHD seems to be associated with increased depressive symptoms, lower overall physical QOL, and reduced mental QOL on several sub-elements of the questionnaire. This should be recognized in the management of patients with double diagnoses.

Open access

Carolina Inda, Natalia G Armando, Paula A dos Santos Claro and Susana Silberstein

Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is a key player of basal and stress-activated responses in the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA) and in extrahypothalamic circuits, where it functions as a neuromodulator to orchestrate humoral and behavioral adaptive responses to stress. This review describes molecular components and cellular mechanisms involved in CRH signaling downstream of its G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) CRHR1 and CRHR2 and summarizes recent findings that challenge the classical view of GPCR signaling and impact on our understanding of CRHRs function. Special emphasis is placed on recent studies of CRH signaling that revealed new mechanistic aspects of cAMP generation and ERK1/2 activation in physiologically relevant contexts of the neurohormone action. In addition, we present an overview of the pathophysiological role of the CRH system, which highlights the need for a precise definition of CRHRs signaling at molecular level to identify novel targets for pharmacological intervention in neuroendocrine tissues and specific brain areas involved in CRH-related disorders.

Open access

N Bergmann, F Gyntelberg and J Faber

Chronic psychosocial stress has been proposed as a risk factor for the development of the metabolic syndrome (MES). This review gives a systematic overview of prospective cohort studies investigating chronic psychosocial stress as a risk factor for incident MES and the individual elements of MES. Thirty-nine studies were included. An association between chronic psychosocial stress and the development of MES was generally supported. Regarding the four elements of MES: i) weight gain: the prospective studies supported etiological roles for relationship stress, perceived stress, and distress, while the studies on work-related stress (WS) showed conflicting results; ii) dyslipidemi: too few studies on psychosocial stress as a risk factor for dyslipidemia were available to draw a conclusion; however, a trend toward a positive association was present; iii) type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2): prospective studies supported perceived stress and distress as risk factors for the development of DM2 among men, but not among women, while WS was generally not supported as a risk factor among neither men nor women; iv) hypertension: marital stress and perceived stress might have an influence on blood pressure (BP), while no association was found regarding distress. Evaluating WS the results were equivocal and indicated that different types of WS affected the BP differently between men and women. In conclusion, a longitudinal association between chronic psychosocial stress and the development of MES seems present. However, the number of studies with sufficient quality is limited and the design of the studies is substantially heterogeneous.

Open access

Rachel K Rowe, Benjamin M Rumney, Hazel G May, Paska Permana, P David Adelson, S Mitchell Harman, Jonathan Lifshitz and Theresa C Thomas

As many as 20–55% of patients with a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI) experience chronic endocrine dysfunction, leading to impaired quality of life, impaired rehabilitation efforts and lowered life expectancy. Endocrine dysfunction after TBI is thought to result from acceleration–deceleration forces to the brain within the skull, creating enduring hypothalamic and pituitary neuropathology, and subsequent hypothalamic–pituitary endocrine (HPE) dysfunction. These experiments were designed to test the hypothesis that a single diffuse TBI results in chronic dysfunction of corticosterone (CORT), a glucocorticoid released in response to stress and testosterone. We used a rodent model of diffuse TBI induced by midline fluid percussion injury (mFPI). At 2months postinjury compared with uninjured control animals, circulating levels of CORT were evaluated at rest, under restraint stress and in response to dexamethasone, a synthetic glucocorticoid commonly used to test HPE axis regulation. Testosterone was evaluated at rest. Further, we assessed changes in injury-induced neuron morphology (Golgi stain), neuropathology (silver stain) and activated astrocytes (GFAP) in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the hypothalamus. Resting plasma CORT levels were decreased at 2months postinjury and there was a blunted CORT increase in response to restraint induced stress. No changes in testosterone were measured. These changes in CORT were observed concomitantly with altered complexity of neuron processes in the PVN over time, devoid of neuropathology or astrocytosis. Results provide evidence that a single moderate diffuse TBI leads to changes in CORT function, which can contribute to the persistence of symptoms related to endocrine dysfunction. Future experiments aim to evaluate additional HP-related hormones and endocrine circuit pathology following diffuse TBI.

Open access

Greta B Raglan, Louis A Schmidt and Jay Schulkin

The stress response has been linked to the expression of anxiety and depression, but the mechanisms for these connections are under continued consideration. The activation and expression of glucocorticoids and CRH are variable and may hold important clues to individual experiences of mood disorders. This paper explores the interactions of glucocorticoids and CRH in the presentation of anxiety and depressive disorders in an effort to better describe their differing roles in each of these clinical presentations. In addition, it focuses on ways in which extra-hypothalamic glucocorticoids and CRH, often overlooked, may play important roles in the presentation of clinical disorders.