Individuals with major depressive disorder show blunted cortisol responses to psychosocial stressors, but the extent to which this pattern of dampened responding characterizes individuals experiencing sub-clinical levels of depressive symptoms is unknown. This study investigated whether self-reports of depressive and anxious symptoms over the previous two weeks were associated with cortisol responses to a laboratory social stress task. In addition, we tested whether these associations were mediated by baseline cortisol, subjective responses to the task, or health behaviors. Healthy adults (N = 76) completed the Mood and Anxiety Symptom Questionnaire prior to engaging in the Trier Social Stress Task. Salivary cortisol was measured at 8 points before and after the task to assess cortisol responding. Linear regressions revealed that men reporting more distress and somatic symptoms had smaller cortisol responses, but anhedonic symptoms were not related to cortisol. Distress was associated with lower baseline cortisol, which in turn statistically mediated the relationship between distress and cortisol response. These results demonstrate that the recent experience of depressive and anxious symptoms is associated with smaller cortisol responses to a psychosocial stressor in a nonclinical population.
cortisol; stress; negative emotion; men; depression; anxiety
Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been observed in adults and children with mood and anxiety disorders and is thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of these disorders. We recently studied a diverse community sample of boys and found associations of behavioral problems, including symptoms of depression and anxiety, with basal and stress-induced cortisol concentrations. Here we examine cortisol-emotional/behavioral associations at a two-year follow-up and test whether initial cortisol is predictive of worsening of emotional/behavioral problems two years later.
Seventy-eight 10–14 year-old boys and their mothers completed a battery of psychosocial assessments, provided morning and afternoon saliva samples, and participated in a home visit involving mildly stressful tasks and saliva collection for cortisol assay during a two-year follow-up assessment.
Consistent with the findings from our time 1 assessment, greater declines in cortisol across the home-visit challenge task were significantly associated with internalizing and externalizing behaviors as well as attention problems and social problems at the two-year follow-up. In addition, morning and afternoon cortisol concentrations at the initial assessment were significant positive predictors of the later development of child depressive symptoms at follow-up after controlling for initial depressive symptoms.
These findings demonstrate that children in the community with internalizing and externalizing behavior problems have altered patterns of HPA axis stress reactivity. In addition, our prospective findings suggest that elevated cortisol concentrations may influence the later development of emotional/behavioral problems in boys.
children; adolescents; boys; depression; cortisol; anxiety; HPA axis; stress reactivity; longitudinal; prospective
Exposure to traumatic stressors typically causes lasting changes in emotionality and behavior. However, coping strategies have been shown to prevent and alleviate many stress consequences and the biological mechanisms that underlie coping are of great interest. Whereas the laboratory stressor inescapable tail-shock induces anxiety-like behaviors, here we demonstrate that permitting a rat to chew on a wooden dowel during administration of tail-shock prevented the development of anxiety like behaviors in the open field and juvenile social exploration tests. Uncontrollable stressors increase corticosterone and decrease thyroid hormone, and we hypothesized that coping would blunt these changes. While tail-shock did produce these effects, active coping did not alter hormone levels. The dissociation between behavioral resilience and circulating hormones is discussed with regard to the utility of these molecules as biomarkers for psychiatric disease.
Chewing; Coping; Corticosterone; Thyroxine; Open-field test; Social Exploration; Rat
Naltrexone evokes a cortisol response through its blockade of central opioid receptors on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis (HPA). The magnitude of this cortisol response may be useful as a probe for central opioid activity in different groups of subjects. Accordingly, the present study examined the effect of opioid blockade on the HPA in 70 women and 58 men with (N = 41) and without (N = 87) a family history of alcoholism, using a randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind administration of oral naltrexone (50 mg). Saliva cortisol was sampled at baseline prior to placebo or naltrexone and again every 30 min over the next 180 min. Women had significantly larger cortisol responses to naltrexone than did the men, F = 6.88, p < .0001. There were no significant differences in cortisol response between groups differing in family history of alcoholism, F = 0.65, p > .69. The present results confirm that women have much greater central opioid restraint on the HPA than men do and that this endogenous restraint is unmasked by opioid blockade. However the results provide no evidence of a differential central opioid tonus in persons with a family history of alcoholism at this dose of naltrexone. The cortisol response to naltrexone may be a useful probe for central opioid activity in women and to a lesser degree in men.
sex; family history of alcoholism; cortisol; naltrexone; opioid
The experience of social exclusion represents an extremely aversive and threatening situation in daily life. The present study examined the impact of social exclusion compared to inclusion on steroid hormone concentrations as well as on subjective affect ratings.
Eighty subjects (40 females) participated in two independent behavioral experiments. They engaged in a computerized ball tossing game in which they ostensibly played with two other players who deliberately excluded or included them, respectively. Hormone samples as well as mood ratings were taken before and after the game.
Social exclusion led to a decrease in positive mood ratings and increased anger ratings. In contrast, social inclusion did not affect positive mood ratings, but decreased sadness ratings. Both conditions did not affect cortisol levels. Testosterone significantly decreased after being excluded in both genders, and increased after inclusion, but only in males. Interestingly, progesterone showed an increase after both conditions only in females.
Our results suggest that social exclusion does not trigger a classical stress response but gender-specific changes in sex hormone levels. The testosterone decrease after being excluded in both genders, as well as the increase after inclusion in males can be interpreted within the framework of the biosocial status hypothesis. The progesterone increase might reflect a generalized affiliative response during social interaction in females.
Gender; Progesterone; Testosterone; Cortisol; Social exclusion; Cyberball
Our objective in the present study was to examine 5-HT1A receptor function in prefrontal cortex and hippocampus of GR+/− mice, which appear to be an appropriate murine model of depression. 5-HT1A receptor function was determined by measuring [35S]GTPγS binding stimulated by the 5-HT1A receptor agonist 8-OH-DPAT (1 μM), an indication of the capacity of the receptor to activate G proteins. 5-HT1A receptor expression was determined by measuring the binding of [3H]8-OH-DPAT (2 nM). We observed no effect of the constitutive reduction in GR on 5-HT1A receptor-stimulated [35S]GTPγS binding or 5-HT1A receptor binding sites. Corticosterone treatment (10 mg/kg, sc once daily for 21 days) of wild-type mice resulted in a decrease in 5-HT1A receptor function in prefrontal cortex [8-OH-DPAT-stimulated [35S]GTPγS binding (% above basal), vehicle-treated: 39±4.9; corticosterone-treated: 17±2.8], but not in hippocampus. The constitutive reduction in GR expression prevented the down-regulation of 5-HT1A receptor function in frontal cortex by chronic corticosterone administration. In contrast, corticosterone treatment of GR+/− mice resulted in an increase in 5-HT1A receptor function in hippocampus which reached statistical significance in CA2/3 region [8-OH-DPAT-stimulated [35S]GTPγS binding (% above basal), vehicle-treated: 41±9.7; corticosterone-treated: 94±23]. These changes seem to be evoked by a combined effect of high corticosterone levels and GR deficiency. Although GR+/− mice do not exhibit changes in baseline corticosterone, the constitutive deficiency in GR appears to have unmasked regulatory effects of elevated corticosterone in the maintenance of 5-HT1A receptor function in prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.
glucocorticoid receptor; quantitative autoradiography; serotonin; corticosterone; major depression; [35S]GTPγS binding
Loss of estrogen in women following menopause is associated with increased risk for cognitive decline, dementia and depression, all of which can be prevented by estradiol replacement. The dentate gyrus plays an important role in cognition, learning and memory. The gatekeeping function of the dentate gyrus to filter incoming activity into the hippocampus is modulated by estradiol in a frequency-dependent manner and involves activation of metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluR). In the present study, we investigated whether estradiol (EB) modulates the metaplastic effect of inducing synaptic long-term potentiation (LTP) on subsequent propensity for expression of larger LTP in the dentate gyrus. At medial perforant path-dentate granule cell synapses in hippocampal slices of ovariectomized female rats, EB replacement was critical for an initial induction of LTP to enhance the magnitude of subsequent LTP elicited by a second high-frequency stimulation, metaplasticity, which was not present in slices from oil-treated control animals. EB enhanced expression of group I mGluRs, and the metaplastic effect of EB on LTP required activation of group I mGluRs that led to Src-family tyrosine kinase-mediated phosphorylation of NR2B subunits of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDAR) that enhanced the magnitude of NMDAR-dependent LTP. Our data show that EB effects on LTP in the hippocampal dentate gyrus require activation of group I mGluRs, which in turn leads to functional metaplastic regulation of NR2B subunit-containing NMDARs, as opposed to direct effects of EB on NMDARs.
β-estradiol; female; dentate gyrus; LTP; metabotropic glutamate receptors; NMDA receptors; NR2B subunit
Robust sex differences in some spatial abilities that favor males have raised the question of whether testosterone contributes to those differences. There is some evidence for prenatal organizational effects of testosterone on male-favoring spatial abilities, but not much is known about the role of pubertal testosterone levels on adult cognitive abilities. We studied the association between pubertal testosterone (at age 14) and cognitive performance in young adulthood (at age 21–23), assessing male-favoring, female-favoring, and sex-neutral cognitive domains in a population-based sample of 130 male and 178 female twins. Pubertal testosterone was negatively associated with performance in the Mental Rotation Test in young adult men (r = −.27), while among women no significant associations between testosterone and cognitive measures were detected. The significant association among men remained after controlling for pubertal development. Confirmatory within-family comparisons with one-sided significance testing yielded a negative correlation between twin pair differences in testosterone levels and Mental Rotation Test performances in 35 male twin pairs (r = −.32):the twin brother with higher testosterone performed less well on the Mental Rotation Test. That association was evident in18 pairs of dizygotic male twin pairs (r = −.42; analysis controlling for shared environmental effects). In contrast, the association of differences was not evident among 17 monozygotic male twin pairs (r = −.07; analysis controlling for shared genetic influences). Results suggest that pubertal testosterone levels are related specifically to male-favoring spatial ability and only among men. Within-family analyses implicated possible shared genetic effects between pubertal testosterone and mental rotation ability.
Mental Rotation Test; Pubertal development; Sex difference; Spatial ability; Testosterone
Social isolation may operate as a psychosocial stressor which disrupts functioning of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenocortical axis.
Using data from the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, we tested whether living alone, not being married and social network size were associated with diurnal cortisol patterns at 60–64 years. We hypothesised that recent onset compared with long-term isolation would be more strongly associated with cortisol awakening response, cortisol decline over the day and evening cortisol. Models were adjusted for sex, smoking, body mass index, alcohol intake, psychological distress and financial difficulties.
Those widowed within the last three years had a 36% (95%CI 6%, 73%) higher night time cortisol than those who were currently married. Those newly living alone also had a higher night time cortisol and flatter diurnal slope than those living with others.
Independently of multiple behavioural and psychosocial correlates, recent onset of social isolation is related to diurnal cortisol patterns that increase the risk of morbidity and mortality.
NSHD; Psychosocial; HPA axis; Bereavement; Social isolation
TSPO mediated transport of cholesterol into the mitochondrion is a necessary step in steroid synthesis. The rs6971 polymorphism in the TSPO gene causes an amino acid substitution (Ala147Thr) within the transmembrane domain where the cholesterol-binding pocket is located, and has been shown to affect the steroidogenic pathway. We report a nominal association between this TSPO polymorphism and the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder in both the genome-wide dataset of the Wellcome Trust Case–Control Consortium and the Psychiatric Genome-Wide Association Study Consortium Bipolar Disorder group (OR = 1.11, p = 0.007; OR = 1.10, p = 0.011, respectively). We propose that the amino acid substitution affects hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) regulation, and hence may predispose to Bipolar Disorder. This supports the hypothesis that HPA dysregulation has a causal role in Bipolar Disorder, and is not just a consequence of the disease.
Translocator Protein; Cortisol; HPA; Neurosteroids; rs6971; Genome-wide; WTCCC; Polymorphism; Mitochondria; Bipolar Disorder
Studies have yielded inconsistent results with regard to effects of age and sex on short term markers of hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) activity. Hair cortisol provides a retrospective proxy measure of the cumulative activity of the HPA axis over the preceding 3-4 month period. In order to describe potential developmental trends in this biomarker, we assessed hair cortisol levels between1-12 years of age in a cross-sectional study of 350 vervets (222 females and 128 males). Monkeys were grouped according to age as 1 (young juvenile), 2 (juvenile), 3 (early adolescent), 4 (late adolescent-young adult), and 5-12 (adult) years of age such that fully mature animals were included in the 5-12 year old age group. We observed that hair cortisol level was higher among the younger monkeys and declined with age (p<.001). More importantly the effect of age significantly interacted with sex (p=.02), such that hair cortisol was consistently lower in males than females beginning at age 3 (p<.05 or better). The developmental decline began one year earlier in females than males suggesting an influence of the earlier maturational processes typical in both human and nonhuman primates. The advantage of lower cortisol levels in the males may be related to social group patterns of male emigration during adolescence in many nonhuman primate species.
development; sex differences; hypothalamic adrenal pituitary adrenal axis; allostatic load; Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus
There is a greater prevalence of neuroinflammatory diseases in females than males. Microglia, the major immunocompetent cells of the central nervous system, play a key role in neuroinflammation. We aimed to determine if inherent differences in toll-like receptor 4 mediated pro-inflammatory response in glia could possibly contribute to the skewed female prevalence of neuroinflammatory disorders. In addition, in order to identify if estradiol (E2), the major female sex steroid contributes to a heightened pro-inflammatory response, estradiol was added both in vivo and in vitro. Microglia and astrocytes were isolated from neonatal pups and stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the presence and absence of E2. Hippocampal microglia were isolated from adult male and female rats and stimulated ex vivo with LPS. Male neonatal microglia and astrocytes produced greater IL-1β mRNA than females. However, when co-incubated with varying doses of estradiol (E2), the E2 produced anti-inflammatory effects in the male microglia but a pro-inflammatory effect in female microglia. LPS-induced IL-1β mRNA was attenuated by E2 in female but not male adult hippocampal microglia. However, females supplemented with E2 in vivo produced a potentiated IL-1β mRNA response. TLR4 mRNA was decreased by LPS in both microglia and astrocytes but was not affected by sex or E2. CD14 mRNA was increased by LPS and may be elevated more in females than males in microglia but not astrocytes. Therefore, sexual dimorphic differences do occur in both neonatal and adult microglia though maturity of the microglia at the time of isolation influences the pro-inflammatory response.
microglia; sex steroid; cytokines; toll-like receptor 4
We investigated whole saliva as a source of biomarkers to distinguish individuals who have, and who have not, been chronically exposed to severe and threatening life difficulties. We evaluated RNA and DNA metrics, expression of 37 candidate genes, and cortisol release in response to the Trier Social Stress Test, as well as clinical characteristics, from 48 individuals stratified on chronic exposure to psychosocial stressors within the last year as measured by the Life Events and Difficulties Schedule. Candidate genes were selected based on their differential gene expression ratio in circulating monocytes from a published genome-wide analysis of adults experiencing different levels of exposure to a chronic stressor.
In univariate analyses, we observed significantly decreased RNA integrity (RIN) score (P = 0.04), and reduced expression of glucocorticoid receptor-regulated genes (Ps < 0.05) in whole saliva RNA from individuals exposed to chronic stressors, as compared to those with no exposure. In those exposed, we observed significantly decreased BMI (P < 0.001), increased ever-smoking and increased lifetime alcohol abuse or dependence (P ≤ 0.03), and a reduction of cortisol release. In post hoc multivariate analyses including clinical and biospecimen-derived variables, we consistently observed significantly decreased expression of IL8 (Ps < 0.05) in individuals exposed, with no significant association to RIN score. Alcohol use disorders, tobacco use, a reduced acute stress response and decreased salivary IL8 gene expression characterize emerging adults chronically exposed to severe and threatening psychosocial stressors.
Human; Saliva; Gene expression; IL8; qPCR
This review highlights the progress made thus far in characterizing the behavioral and cellular mechanisms through which cannabinoids regulate energy homeostasis. We performed microstructural analysis of feeding behavior in gonadectomized guinea pigs and gonadally intact, transgenic CB1 receptor knockout mice to determine how cannabinoids affect circadian rhythms in food intake and meal pattern. We also implanted data loggers into the abdominal cavity to correlate the appetite-modulating properties of cannabinoids with changes in core body temperature. We then coupled the effects on feeding behavior and temperature regulation with synaptic changes in the hypothalamic feeding circuitry via whole-cell patch clamp electrophysiological recording from neurons in the arcuate nucleus (ARC), in order to gain a more global perspective on the cannabinoid modulation of energy homeostasis. We observed marked sex differences in cannabinoid effects on food intake and core body temperature — with male guinea pigs exhibiting a comparatively greater sensitivity to the hyperphagia and hypophagia, as well as the hypothermia and hyperthermia, produced by CB1 receptor agonists and antagonists, respectively. In addition, male but not female CB1 receptor knockout mice show a diminished nocturnal food intake and average daily body weight relative to their wildtype littermate controls. The disparity in the CB1 receptor-mediated hyperphagia is paralleled by sex differences in the cellular effects of cannabinoids at anorexigenic, guinea pig proopiomelanocortin (POMC) synapses. Postsynaptically, cannabinoids potentiate an A-type K+ current (IA) in POMC neurons from female guinea pigs, whereas in males the activation of an inwardly rectifying K+ current is observed. Presynaptically, while cannabinoids inhibit glutamatergic input onto POMC neurons in males and females to similar degrees, males are more refractory to the cannabinoid-induced inhibition of convergent GABAergic input than females. These data reveal pervasive sex differences in the cannabinoid regulation of energy homeostasis that are consistent with changes in the excitability of POMC neurons.
Cachexia; Obesity; GABA; Glutamate; CB1 receptor; K+ channels
The enzyme 5α-reductase (5αR) catalyzes the conversion of testosterone and other Δ4-3-ketosteroids into their 5α-reduced metabolites. Of the five members of the 5αR family the type 2 enzyme (5αR2) plays a key role in androgen metabolism, and is abundantly distributed in the urogenital system. Although 5αR2 has been reported to be highly expressed in the brain during early developmental stages, little is currently known on its anatomical and cellular distribution in the adult brain. Thus, the present study was designed to determine the detailed localization of 5αR2 in the adult rat brain, using a highly specific polyclonal antibody against this isoform. Parasagittal and coronal sections revealed 5αR2 immunoreactivity throughout most brain regions, with strong immunolabeling in the layers III and VI of the prefrontal and somatosensory cortex, olfactory bulb, thalamic nuclei, CA3 field of hippocampus, basolateral amygdala and Purkinje cell layer of cerebellum. Lower 5αR2 levels were detected in the hypothalamus and midbrain. Moreover, double labeling fluorescence with confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) revealed that 5αR2 is localized in neurons, but not in glial cells. Specifically, the enzyme was documented in the pyramidal neurons of the cortex by CLSM analysis of simultaneous Golgi-Cox and immunofluorescent staining. Finally, low levels of 5αR2 expression were identified in GABAergic cells across the cortex, hippocampus and striatum. These findings show that, in the adult brain, 5αR2 is distributed in critical regions for behavioral regulation, suggesting that the functional role of this isoform is present throughout the entire lifespan of the individual.
5α-reductase; brain; immunohistochemistry; neurosteroids; androgens
Childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has been associated with dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in non-pregnant samples. However, it is not yet known whether CSA is associated with HPA dysregulation over pregnancy. In the present study we assessed whether maternal cortisol levels across pregnancy differed in women with CSA histories compared to women with histories of non-sexual child abuse (CA) and no abuse (NA).
135 pregnant mothers (CSA=30, CA=58, NA=47) provided salivary cortisol samples at wakeup, wake +30 minutes, and bedtime for 3 consecutive days at 1–3 time points over second and third trimester. Cortisol awakening responses and slopes were computed.
Women with CSA histories displayed increasing cortisol awakening response over pregnancy compared to women with CA and NA histories. Group differences were not observed for slope.
This is the first study to show that cortisol awakening responses increase over pregnancy in women with CSA histories compared to women with CA and NA histories.
child abuse; cortisol; cortisol awakening response; cortisol slope; pregnancy
Repeated social defeat (RSD) activates neuroendocrine pathways that have a significant influence on immunity and behavior. Previous studies from our lab indicate that social defeat enhances the inflammatory capacity of CD11b+ cells in the brain and promotes anxiety-like behavior in an interleukin (IL)-1 and β-adrenergic receptor-dependent manner. The purpose of this study was to determine the degree to which mice subjected to RSD were more responsive to a secondary immune challenge. Therefore, RSD or control (HCC) mice were injected with saline or lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and activation of brain CD11b+ cells and behavioral responses were determined. Peripheral LPS (0.5 mg/kg) injection caused an extended sickness response with exaggerated weight loss and prolonged social withdrawal in socially defeated mice. LPS injection also amplified mRNA expression of IL-1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and CD14 in enriched CD11b+ cells isolated from socially defeated mice. In addition, IL-1β mRNA levels in enriched CD11b+ cells remained elevated in socially defeated mice 24 h and 72 h after LPS. Moreover, microglia and CNS macrophages isolated from socially defeated mice had the highest CD14 expression after LPS injection. Both social defeat and LPS injection increased the percentage of CD11b+/CD45high macrophages in the brain and the number of inflammatory macrophages (CD11b+/CD45high/CCR2+) was highest in RSD-LPS mice. Anxiety-like behavior was increased by social defeat, but was not exacerbated by the LPS challenge. Nonetheless, reduced locomotor activity and increased social withdrawal were still present in socially defeated mice 72 h after LPS. Last, LPS-induced microglia activation was most evident in the hippocampus of socially defeated mice. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that repeated social defeat enhanced the neuroinflammatory response and caused prolonged sickness following innate immune challenge.
Stress; Microglia; LPS; Cytokines; Anxiety; Sickness
The surveillance and effector functions of the immune system are critically dependent on the appropriate distribution of immune cells in the body. An acute or short-term stress response induces a rapid and significant redistribution of immune cells among different body compartments. Stress-induced leukocyte redistribution may be a fundamental survival response that directs leukocyte subpopulations to specific target organs during stress, and significantly enhances the speed, efficacy and regulation of an immune response. Immune responses are generally enhanced in compartments (e.g., skin) that are enriched with leukocytes, and suppressed in compartments that are depleted of leukocytes during/following stress. The experiments described here were designed to elucidate the: 1) Time-course, trajectory, and subpopulation-specificity of stress-induced mobilization and trafficking of blood leukocytes. 2) Individual and combined actions of the principal stress hormones, norepinephrine (NE), epinephrine (EPI), and corticosterone (CORT), in mediating mobilization or trafficking of specific leukocyte subpopulations. 3) Effects of stress/stress hormones on adhesion molecule, L-selectin (CD62L), expression by each subpopulation to assess its adhesion / functional / maturation status.
Male Sprague Dawley rats were stressed (short-term restraint, 2–120 min), or adrenalectomized and injected with vehicle (VEH), NE, EPI, CORT, or their combinations, and blood was collected for measurement of hormones and flow cytometric quantification of leukocyte subpopulations.
Acute stress induced an early increase/mobilization of neutrophils, lymphocytes, helper T cells (Th), cytolytic T cells (CTL), and B cells into the blood, followed by a decrease/trafficking of all cell types out of the blood, except neutrophil numbers that continued to increase. CD62L expression was increased on neutrophils, decreased on Th, CTL, and natural killer (NK) cells, and showed a biphasic decrease on monocytes & B cells, suggesting that CD62L is involved in mediating the redistribution effects of stress. Additionally, we observed significant differences in the direction, magnitude, and subpopulation specificity of the effects of each hormone: NE increased leukocyte numbers, most notably CD62L−/+ neutrophils and CD62L− B cells. EPI increased monocyte and neutrophil numbers, most notably CD62L−/+ neutrophils and CD62L− monocytes, but decreased lymphocyte numbers with CD62L−/+ CTL and CD62L+ B cells being especially sensitive. CORT decreased monocyte, lymphocyte, Th, CTL, and B cell numbers with CD62L− and CD62L+ cells being equally affected. Thus, naïve (CD62L+) vs. memory (CD62L−) T cells, classical (CD62L+) vs. non-classical (CD62L−) monocytes, and similarly distinct functional subsets of other leukocyte populations are differentially mobilized into the blood and trafficked to tissues by stress hormones.
Stress hormones orchestrate a large-scale redistribution of immune cells in the body. NE and EPI mobilize immune cells into the bloodstream, and EPI and CORT induce traffic out of the blood possibly to tissue surveillance pathways, lymphoid tissues, and sites of ongoing or de novo immune activation. Immune cell subpopulations appear to show differential sensitivities and redistribution responses to each hormone depending on the type of leukocyte (neutrophil, monocyte or lymphocyte) and its maturation/functional characteristics (e.g., resident or inflammatory monocyte, naïve or central/effector memory T cell). Thus, stress hormones could be administered simultaneously or sequentially to induce specific leukocyte subpopulations to be mobilized into the blood, or to traffic from blood to tissues. Stress hormone-mediated changes in immune cell distribution could be clinically harnessed to: 1) Direct leukocytes to sites of vaccination, wound healing, infection, or cancer and thereby enhance protective immunity. 2) Reduce leukocyte traffic to sites of inflammatory/autoimmune reactions. 3) Sequester immune cells in relatively protected compartments to minimize exposure to cytotoxic treatments like radiation or localized chemotherapy. 4) Measure biological resistance/sensitivity to stress hormones in vivo. In keeping with the guidelines for Richter Award manuscripts, in addition to original data we also present a model and synthesis of findings in the context of the literature on the effects of short-term stress on immune cell distribution and function.
psychoneuroimmunology; stress; immune cell trafficking; catecholamine and glucocorticoid stress hormones; surgical recovery; vaccine or cancer adjuvant; integrative immunology
Stress-induced eating disorders cause significant health problems and are often comorbid with mood disorders. Emotional feeding, particularly in women, may be important for the development of obesity and failed attempts to lose weight. However, prospective studies assessing the effect of chronic psychosocial stress on appetite in different dietary environments in females are lacking. The present study tested the hypothesis that chronic psychosocial stress would increase consumption of high caloric diet and this emotional feeding would persist even when a healthier diet was available. Socially housed female rhesus monkeys were studied to address whether subordination increases caloric intake when a high fat and sugar diet (HFSD) was available concurrently with a low fat, high fiber diet (LCD). Cortisol responsivity and food intake were quantified during this choice phase and when only the LCD was available. The order of diet condition was counterbalanced to assess whether a history of HFSD would affect appetite. All females preferred the HFSD but subordinates consumed significantly more calories during the choice phase. The increased calorie intake was maintained in subordinate monkeys even after withdrawal of the HFSD. Subordinate females demonstrated reduced glucocorticoid negative feedback, with post dexamethasone serum cortisol levels significantly predicting intake of the HFSD but not the LCD during the choice condition. The cortisol response to an acute stressor significantly predicted subsequent intake of a HFSD in all females. Continual exposure to the psychosocial stress of subordination in female monkeys results in excess caloric intake of foods that mimic a western dietary environment. In addition, this social stressor interacts with a history of HFSD intake to promote increased feeding even in a healthy dietary environment.
Psychosocial stress; Social subordination; Diet choice; Monkeys; Emotional feeding
We have previously demonstrated that viral-mediated overexpression of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) within the central nucleus of the amygdala (CeA) reproduces many of the behavioral and endocrine consequences of chronic stress. The present experiment sought to determine whether administration of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) escitalopram reverses the adverse effects of CeA CRF overexpression. In a 2 × 2 design, adult male rats received bilateral infusions of a control lentivirus or a lentivirus in which a portion of the CRF promoter is used to drive increased expression of CRF peptide. Four weeks later, rats were then implanted with an Alzet minipump to deliver vehicle or 10 mg/kg/day escitalopram for a 4-week period of time. The defensive withdrawal (DW) test of anxiety and the sucrose-preference test (SPT) of anhedonia were performed both before and after pump implantation. Additional post-implant behavioral tests included the elevated plus maze (EPM) and social interaction (SI) test. Following completion of behavioral testing, the dexamethasone/CRF test was performed to assess HPA axis reactivity. Brains were collected and expression of HPA axis-relevant transcripts were measured using in situ hybridization. Amygdalar CRF overexpression increased anxiety-like behavior in the DW test at week eight, which was only partially prevented by escitalopram. In both CRF-overexpressing and control groups, escitalopram decreased hippocampal CRF expression while increasing hypothalamic and hippocampal expression of the glucocorticoid receptor (GR). These gene expression changes were associated with a significant decrease in HPA axis reactivity in rats treated with escitalopram. Interestingly, escitalopram increased the rate of weight gain only in rats overexpressing CRF. Overall these data support our hypothesis that amygdalar CRF is critical in anxiety-like behavior; because the antidepressant was unable to reverse behavioral manifestations of CeA CRF-OE. This may be a potential animal model to study treatment-resistant psychopathologies.
Corticotropin-releasing factor; Amygdala; Escitalopram; Anxiety; Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis
Recent studies have demonstrated alterations in the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and brain abnormalities in adults with obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). While adolescents with T2DM exhibit similar brain abnormalities, less is known about whether brain impairments and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis abnormalities are already present in adolescents with pre-diabetic conditions such as insulin resistance (IR). This study included 33 adolescents with IR and 20 without IR. Adolescents with IR had a blunted CAR, smaller hippocampal volumes, and greater frontal lobe atrophy compared to controls. Mediation analyses indicated pathways whereby a smaller CAR was associated with higher BMI which was in turn associated with fasting insulin levels, which in turn was related to smaller hippocampal volume and greater frontal lobe atrophy. While we had hypothesized that HPA dysregulation may result from brain abnormalities, our findings suggest that HPA dysregulation may also impact brain structures through associations with metabolic abnormalities.
Adolescence; CAR; Obesity; Hippocampus; Frontal Lobes; Cortisol
Estrogen therapy used in combination with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment improves SSRI efficacy for the treatment of mood disorders. Desensitization of serotonin 1A (5-HT1A) receptors, which takes one to two weeks to develop in animals, is necessary for SSRI therapeutic efficacy. Estradiol modifies 5-HT1A receptor signaling and induces a partial desensitization in the paraventricular nucleus (PVN) of the rat within two days, but the mechanisms underlying this effect are currently unknown. The purpose of this study was to identify the estrogen receptor necessary for estradiol-induced 5-HT1A receptor desensitization. We previously showed that estrogen receptor β is not necessary for 5-HT1A receptor desensitization and that selective activation of estrogen receptor GPR30 mimics the effects of estradiol in rat PVN. Here, we used a recombinant adenovirus containing GPR30 siRNAs to decrease GPR30 expression in the PVN. Reduction of GPR30 prevented estradiol-induced desensitization of 5-HT1A receptor as measured by hormonal responses to the selective 5-HT1A receptor agonist, (+)8-OH-DPAT. To determine the possible mechanisms underlying these effects, we investigated protein and mRNA levels of 5-HT1A receptor signaling components including 5-HT1A receptor, Gαz, and RGSz1. We found that two days of estradiol increased protein and mRNA expression of RGSz1, and decreased 5-HT1A receptor protein but increased 5-HT1A mRNA; GPR30 knockdown prevented the estradiol-induced changes in 5-HT1A receptor protein in the PVN. Taken together, these data demonstrate that GPR30 is necessary for estradiol-induced changes in the 5-HT1A receptor signaling pathway and desensitization of 5-HT1A receptor signaling.
Prostate cancer (PC) is the most common cancer diagnosed in men, and research suggests that coping with this illness can cause significant distress in patients as well as their partners. This study examined the relationship of caregiving for a partner with PC with diurnal cortisol output in women between the ages of 42 and 75 years old. Participants were women whose partners had PC (n = 19) and women who were in relationships with men with no diagnosed medical illness (n = 26). Women provided saliva samples (4 times per day over 3 days) in their natural environment. The Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV Axis-I Disorders was also conducted to assess for the presence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression. Partners of men with PC had lower daily cortisol output across the three days than controls, F (1, 444.08) = 20.72, p < .001). They were also more likely to report PTSD symptoms with 68.4% of PC partners fulfilling criteria for sub-threshold PTSD as compared to 23.1% of controls (χ2= 11.30, p=.01). Mixed model analyses revealed that the presence of sub-threshold PTSD symptoms significantly predicted cortisol production, F (1, 419.64) = 5.10, p < .01). Regardless of caregiver status, women who reported at least sub-threshold PTSD symptoms had lower cortisol production than those with no PTSD symptoms. Major depression did not explain differences in cortisol production between partners of PC patients and controls. Although these findings are preliminary, they highlight the importance of developing interventions aimed at reducing risk of psychopathology in partners of men with PC.
spousal caregivers; prostate cancer; diurnal cortisol; hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis; post-traumatic stress disorder; major depression
Experimental animal models have demonstrated that one of the primary consequences of prenatal stress is increased fear and anxiety in the offspring. Few prospective human studies have evaluated the consequences of prenatal stress on anxiety during preadolescence. The purpose of this investigation is to determine the consequences of prenatal exposure to both maternal biological stress signals and psychological distress on anxiety in preadolescent children. Participants included 178 mother-child pairs. Maternal psychological distress (general anxiety, perceived stress, depression and pregnancy-specific anxiety) and biological stress signals were evaluated at 19, 25, and 31 gestational weeks. Anxiety was evaluated in the children at 6 to 9 years of age using the Child Behavior Checklist. Analyses revealed that prenatal exposure to elevated maternal cortisol, depression, perceived stress and pregnancy-specific anxiety was associated with increased anxiety in children. These associations remained after considering obstetric, sociodemographic and postnatal maternal psychological distress; factors that could influence child development. When all of the prenatal measures were considered together, cortisol and pregnancy-specific anxiety independently predicted child anxiety. Children exposed to elevated prenatal maternal cortisol and pregnancy-specific anxiety were at an increased risk for developing anxiety problems during the preadolescent period. This project identifies prenatal risk factors associated with lasting consequences for child mental health and raises the possibility that reducing maternal distress during the prenatal period will have long term benefits for child well-being.
anxiety; development; fetal programming; prenatal; cortisol; stress; pregnancy
Females begin to demonstrate greater negative affective responses to stress than males in adolescence. This may reflect the concurrent emergence of underlying differences in physiological response systems, including corticolimbic circuitries, the hypothalamic—pituitary— adrenal axis (HPAA), and the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This review examines when sex differences in physiological reactivity to acute psychosocial stress emerge and the directionality of these differences over development. Indeed, the literature indicates that sex differences emerge during adolescence and persist into adulthood for all three physiological response systems. However, the directionality of the differences varies by system. The emerging corti-colimbic reactivity literature suggests greater female reactivity, particularly in limbic regions densely innervated by gonadal hormone receptors. In contrast, males generally show higher levels of HPAA and ANS reactivity. We argue that the contrasting directionality of corticolimbic and peripheral physiological responses may reflect specific effects of gonadal hormones on distinct systems and also sex differences in evolved behavioral responses that demand different levels of peripheral physiological activation. Studies that examine both subjective reports of negative affect and physiological responses indicate that beginning in adolescence, females respond to acute stressors with more intense negative affect than males despite their comparatively lower peripheral physiological responses. This dissociation is not clearly explained by sex differences in the strength of the relationship between physiological and subjective responses. We suggest that females' greater subjective responsivity may instead arise from a greater activity in brain regions that translate stress responses to subjective awareness in adolescence. Future research directions include investigations of the role of pubertal hormones in physiological reactivity across all systems, examining the relationship of corticolimbic reactivity and negative affect, and sex differences in emotion regulation processes.
Adolescent; Autonomic nervous system; Corticolimbic system; Hypothalamic—pituitary—adrenal axis; Sex differences; Psychosocial stress