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The stress response system is disrupted in individuals with major depressive disorder (MDD) as well as in those at elevated risk for developing MDD. We examined whether DNA methylation (DNAm) levels of CpG sites within HPA-axis genes predict the onset of MDD. Seventy-seven girls, approximately half (n = 37) of whom were at familial risk for MDD, were followed longitudinally. Saliva samples were taken in adolescence (M age = 13.06 years [SD = 1.52]) when participants had no current or past MDD diagnosis. Diagnostic interviews were administered approximately every 18 months until the first onset of MDD or early adulthood (M age of last follow-up = 19.23 years [SD = 2.69]). We quantified DNAm in saliva samples using the Illumina EPIC chip and examined CpG sites within six key HPA-axis genes (NR3C1, NR3C2, CRH, CRHR1, CRHR2, FKBP5) alongside 59 genotypes for tagging SNPs capturing cis genetic variability. DNAm levels within CpG sites in NR3C1, CRH, CRHR1, and CRHR2 were associated with risk for MDD across adolescence and young adulthood. To rule out the possibility that findings were merely due to the contribution of genetic variability, we re-analyzed the data controlling for cis genetic variation within these candidate genes. Importantly, methylation levels in these CpG sites continued to significantly predict the onset of MDD, suggesting that variation in the epigenome, independent of proximal genetic variants, prospectively predicts the onset of MDD. These findings suggest that variation in the HPA axis at the level of the methylome may predict the development of MDD.
The significant public health burden associated with late-life depression (LLD) is magnified by the high rates of recurrence. In this manuscript, we review what is known about recurrence risk factors, conceptualize recurrence within a model of homeostatic disequilibrium, and discuss the potential significance and challenges of new research into LLD recurrence. The proposed model is anchored in the allostatic load theory of stress. We review the allostatic response characterized by neural changes in network function and connectivity and physiologic changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, autonomic nervous system, immune system, and circadian rhythm. We discuss the role of neural networks' instability following treatment response as a source of downstream disequilibrium, triggering and/or amplifying abnormal stress response, cognitive dysfunction and behavioral changes, ultimately precipitating a full-blown recurrent episode of depression. We propose strategies to identify and capture early change points that signal recurrence risk through mobile technology to collect ecologically measured symptoms, accompanied by automated algorithms that monitor for state shifts (persistent worsening) and variance shifts (increased variability) relative to a patient's baseline. Identifying such change points in relevant sensor data could potentially provide an automated tool that could alert clinicians to at-risk individuals or relevant symptom changes even in a large practice.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
Early life stress (ELS) is a risk factor for the development of depression in adolescence; the mediating neurobiological mechanisms, however, are unknown. In this study, we examined in early pubertal youth the associations among ELS, cortisol stress responsivity, and white matter microstructure of the uncinate fasciculus and the fornix, two key frontolimbic tracts; we also tested whether and how these variables predicted depressive symptoms in later puberty. A total of 208 participants (117 females; M age = 11.37 years; M Tanner stage = 2.03) provided data across two or more assessment modalities: ELS; salivary cortisol levels during a psychosocial stress task; diffusion magnetic resonance imaging; and depressive symptoms. In early puberty there were significant associations between higher ELS and decreased cortisol production, and between decreased cortisol production and increased fractional anisotropy in the uncinate fasciculus. Further, increased fractional anisotropy in the uncinate fasciculus predicted higher depressive symptoms in later puberty, above and beyond earlier symptoms. In post hoc analyses, we found that sex moderated several additional associations. We discuss these findings within a broader conceptual model linking ELS, emotion dysregulation, and depression across the transition through puberty, and contend that brain circuits implicated in the control of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function should be a focus of continued research.
Several studies have shown that young children who have experienced early caregiving adversity (e.g. previously institutionalization (PI)) exhibit flattened diurnal cortisol slopes; however, less is known about how these patterns might differ between children and adolescents, since the transition between childhood and adolescence is a time of purported plasticity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. PI youth experience a massive improvement in caregiving environment once adopted into families; therefore we anticipated that a developmental increase in HPA axis plasticity during adolescence might additionally allow for an enhanced enrichment effect by the adoptive family. In a cross-sectional sample of 197 youths (PI and Comparison; 4-15 years old) we observed age-related group differences in diurnal slope. First replicating previous findings, PI children exhibited flattened diurnal slope. This group difference, however, was not observed in adolescents. Moderation analyses showed that pubertal development, increased time with family, and early adoption contributed to the steeper diurnal cortisol slope in PI adolescents. These findings add support to existing theories positing that the transition between middle childhood and adolescence may mark an additional sensitive period for diurnal cortisol patterning, allowing PI youth to benefit from the enriched environment provided by adoptive parents during this period of development.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.
Researchers have documented dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in children and adolescents who experienced early life stress (ELS). The precise nature of this dysregulation, however, has been difficult to discern. In fact, both elevated and blunted patterns of diurnal cortisol regulation have been reported in children and adolescents exposed to greater ELS, including both reduced and heightened cortisol levels and change in cortisol across the day. These divergent findings may be due to developmental changes in the relation between ELS and HPA-axis functioning. The present study was designed to examine the role of puberty in the impact of the severity of ELS on the regulation of diurnal cortisol. Boys and girls (N=145) ages 9-13 years recruited from lower-risk communities completed an interview about their ELS experiences and at-home collection of diurnal cortisol. ELS experiences were objectively coded for severity, and children's level of pubertal development was measured using Tanner Staging. Multi-level piecewise mixed-effects models tested the effects of ELS severity and pubertal stage on cortisol levels at waking, the cortisol awakening response (CAR), and the daytime cortisol slope. While we found no significant interactive effects of pubertal stage and ELS severity on cortisol levels at waking or the daytime cortisol slope, findings indicated that pubertal stage interacted with ELS severity to predict the cortisol awakening response (CAR). Specifically, in earlier puberty, higher ELS was associated with a blunted CAR compared to lower ELS; in contrast, in later puberty, higher ELS was associated with a heightened CAR compared to lower ELS. Differences in the relation between ELS severity and the CAR were uniquely determined by puberty, and not by age. By considering and examining the role of puberty, the current study provides a developmental explanation for previous divergent findings of both blunted and heightened patterns of diurnal cortisol following ELS. These results indicate that careful attention should be given to children's pubertal status before drawing conclusions concerning the nature of diurnal cortisol dysregulation.
Copyright © 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Like all other vertebrate groups, amphibian responses to the environment are mediated through the brain (hypothalamic)-pituitary-adrenal/interrenal (HPA/I) axis and the sympathetic nervous system. Amphibians are facing historically unprecedented environmental stress due to climate change that will involve unpredictable temperature and rainfall regimes and possible nutritional deficits due to extremes of temperature and drought. At the same time, amphibians in all parts of the world are experiencing unprecedented declines due to the emerging diseases, chytridiomycosis (caused by Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) and ranavirus diseases due to viruses of the genus Ranavirus in the family Iridoviridae. Other pathogens and parasites also afflict amphibians, but here I will limit myself to a review of recent literature linking stress and these emerging diseases (chytridiomycosis and ranavirus disease) in order to better predict how environmental stressors and disease will affect global amphibian populations.
Copyright © 2016. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
OBJECTIVES - Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation is associated with chronic pain. Studying pain sensitivity and the HPA axis could elucidate the role of stress in chronic pain development, which might be influenced by familial factors, including genes.
METHODS - Associations between pain sensitivity and salivary cortisol and familial confounding in these associations were examined in 88 female, community-based twin pairs (75% monozygotic, mean age 29 y). Cortisol was assessed after 0.25 mg dexamethasone (DEX), recovery from 0.25 mg DEX, and after 0.5 mg DEX. Cold pressor task (CPT) pain ratings were obtained at threshold and at tolerance. Conditioned pain modulation (CPM) was examined using thermal heat as the testing stimulus and hot water as the conditioning stimulus. Generalized estimating equation models were used and adjusted for baseline pain rating, age, and other relevant covariates.
RESULTS - After controlling for baseline cortisol, greater cortisol suppression following DEX administration and lower recovery cortisol levels were associated with higher pain ratings at tolerance during the CPT (Bs=-2.42 to -17.82; Ps=0.031 to<0.001) as well as with reduced CPM (Bs=-0.92 to -1.68; Ps=0.003 to 0.046). Interestingly, familial confounding was evident in the CPT and CPM during recovery from DEX administration, but not immediately following DEX administration.
DISCUSSION - These findings contribute to understanding possible mechanisms underlying chronic pain by demonstrating that HPA axis response to negative feedback is related to pain sensitivity.
Stress affects a constellation of physiological systems in the body and evokes a rapid shift in many neurobehavioral processes. A growing body of work indicates that the endocannabinoid (eCB) system is an integral regulator of the stress response. In the current review, we discuss the evidence to date that demonstrates stress-induced regulation of eCB signaling and the consequential role changes in eCB signaling have with respect to many of the effects of stress. Across a wide array of stress paradigms, studies have generally shown that stress evokes bidirectional changes in the two eCB molecules, anandamide (AEA) and 2-arachidonoyl glycerol (2-AG), with stress exposure reducing AEA levels and increasing 2-AG levels. Additionally, in almost every brain region examined, exposure to chronic stress reliably causes a downregulation or loss of cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors. With respect to the functional role of changes in eCB signaling during stress, studies have demonstrated that the decline in AEA appears to contribute to the manifestation of the stress response, including activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and increases in anxiety behavior, while the increased 2-AG signaling contributes to termination and adaptation of the HPA axis, as well as potentially contributing to changes in pain perception, memory and synaptic plasticity. More so, translational studies have shown that eCB signaling in humans regulates many of the same domains and appears to be a critical component of stress regulation, and impairments in this system may be involved in the vulnerability to stress-related psychiatric conditions, such as depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Collectively, these data create a compelling argument that eCB signaling is an important regulatory system in the brain that largely functions to buffer against many of the effects of stress and that dynamic changes in this system contribute to different aspects of the stress response.
The aim of this study was to determine whether antecedent stimulation of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) A receptors with the benzodiazepine alprazolam can blunt physiologic responses during next-day moderate (90 min) exercise in healthy man. Thirty-one healthy individuals (16 male/15 female aged 28 ± 1 year, BMI 23 ± 3 kg/m(2)) were studied during separate, 2-day protocols. Day 1 consisted of morning and afternoon 2-h hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic or hypoglycemic clamps with or without 1 mg alprazolam given 30 min before a clamp. Day 2 consisted of 90-min euglycemic cycling exercise at 50% VO2max. Despite similar euglycemia (5.3 ± 0.1 mmol/L) and insulinemia (46 ± 6 pmol/L) during day 2 exercise studies, GABA A activation with alprazolam during day 1 euglycemia resulted in significant blunting of plasma epinephrine, norepinephrine, glucagon, cortisol, and growth hormone responses. Lipolysis (glycerol, nonesterified fatty acids) and endogenous glucose production during exercise were also reduced, and glucose infusion rates were increased following prior euglycemia with alprazolam. Prior hypoglycemia with alprazolam resulted in further reduction of glucagon and cortisol responses during exercise. We conclude that prior activation of GABA A pathways can play a significant role in blunting key autonomous nervous system, neuroendocrine, and metabolic physiologic responses during next-day exercise in healthy man.
© 2015 by the American Diabetes Association. Readers may use this article as long as the work is properly cited, the use is educational and not for profit, and the work is not altered.
BACKGROUND - There is a dearth of knowledge about the link between cortisol and pain sensitivity.
PURPOSE - We examined the association of salivary cortisol with indices of cold pain sensitivity in 198 female twins and explored the role of familial confounding.
METHODS - Three-day saliva samples were collected for cortisol levels and a cold pressor test was used to collect pain ratings and time to threshold and tolerance. Linear regression modeling with generalized estimating equations examined the overall and within-pair associations.
RESULTS - Lower diurnal variation of cortisol was associated with higher pain ratings at threshold (p = 0.02) and tolerance (p < 0.01). The relationship of diurnal variation with pain ratings at threshold and tolerance was minimally influenced by familial factors (i.e., genetics and common environment).
CONCLUSIONS - Understanding the genetic and non-genetic mechanisms underlying the link between HPA axis dysregulation and pain sensitivity may help to prevent chronic pain development and maintenance.