Neuroendocrine aspects of the response to stress.
Metab Clin Exp 2002 Jun; 51(6)(Suppl 1):5-10
Disruptions in homeostasis (ie, stress) place demands on the body that are met by the activation of 2 systems, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Stressor-induced activation of the HPA axis and the SNS results in a series of neural and endocrine adaptations known as the "stress response" or "stress cascade." The stress cascade is responsible for allowing the body to make the necessary physiological and metabolic changes required to cope with the demands of a homeostatic challenge. Here we discuss the key elements of the HPA axis and the neuroendocrine response to stress. A challenge to homeostasis (a stressor) initiates the release of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) from the hypothalamus, which in turn results in release of adrenocortiotropin hormone (ACTH) into general circulation. ACTH then acts on the adrenal cortex resulting in release of a species-specific glucocorticoid into blood. Glucocorticoids act in a negative feedback fashion to terminate the release of CRH. The body strives to maintain glucocorticoid levels within certain boundaries and interference at any level of the axis will influence the other components via feedback loops. Over- or underproduction of cortisol can result in the devastating diseases of Cushing's and Addison's, respectively, but less severe dysregulation of the HPA axis can still have adverse health consequences. These include the deposition of visceral fat as well as cardiovascular disease (eg, atherosclerosis). Thus, chronic stress with its physical and psychological ramifications remains a persistent clinical problem for which new pharmacological treatment strategies are aggressively sought. To date, treatments have been based on the existing knowledge concerning the brain areas and neurobiological substrates that subserve the stress response. Thus, the CRH blocker, antalarmin, is being investigated as a treatment for chronic stress because it prevents CRH from having its ultimate effect-a protracted release of glucocorticoids. New therapeutic strategies will depend on the discovery of novel therapeutic targets at the cellular and intracellular level. Advances in molecular biology provide the tools and new opportunities for identifying these therapeutic targets.
Stress; Nervous-system; Physiological-effects; Physiological-stress; Cardiovascular-disease; Psychological-disorders; Psychological-effects; Psychological-stress
Diane B. Miller, PhD, Chronic Stress and Neurotoxicology Laboratory, TMBB-HELD, Mailstop L-3014, CDC-NIOSH, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505
Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental