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      Stress as a Risk Factor in the Pathogenesis of Rheumatoid Arthritis

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          Abstract

          Stress is now recognized as an important risk factor in the pathogenesis of autoimmune rheumatic diseases (i.e. rheumatoid arthritis) by considering that the activation of the stress response system influences the close relationships existing between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the sympathetic nervous system and the immune system. The stress response results in the release of neurotransmitters (norepinephrine), hormones (cortisol) and immune cells which serve to send an efferent message from the brain to the periphery. Major life events lead to an intense release of stress mediators (large time integral of released neurotransmitters and hormones), whereas in minor life events, only short-lived surges of neurotransmitters and hormones are expected. Therefore, it is suggested that neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine or stress hormones such as cortisol might have different effects on immune/inflammatory responses at high and low concentrations present during short or extended periods of time, respectively. Long-lasting (chronic) stress may lead to proinflammatory effects because no adequate long-term responses of stress axes (anti-inflammatory) are to be expected.

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          Most cited references 23

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          How stress influences the immune response.

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            Stress hormones, proinflammatory and antiinflammatory cytokines, and autoimmunity.

            Recent evidence indicates that glucocorticoids and catecholamines, the major stress hormones, inhibit the production of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-12, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, and interferon (IFN)-gamma, whereas they stimulate the production of antiinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-10, IL-4, and transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta. Thus, systemically, an excessive immune response, through activation of the stress system, stimulates an important negative feedback mechanism, which protects the organism from an "overshoot" of proinflammatory cytokines and other products of activated macrophages with tissue-damaging potential. Conversely, in certain local responses and under certain conditions, stress hormones actually may boost regional immune responses, through induction of TNF-alpha, IL-1, and IL-8, and by inhibiting TGF-beta production. Therefore, conditions that are associated with significant changes in stress system activity, such as acute or chronic stress, cessation of chronic stress, severe exercise, and pregnancy and the postpartum period, through modulation of the systemic or local pro/antiinflammatory cytokine balance, may suppress or potentiate autoimmune diseases activity and/or progression.
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              Enhancing versus suppressive effects of stress hormones on skin immune function.

              Delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactions are antigen-specific cell-mediated immune responses that, depending on the antigen, mediate beneficial (e.g., resistance to viruses, bacteria, and fungi) or harmful (e.g., allergic dermatitis and autoimmunity) aspects of immune function. Contrary to the idea that stress suppresses immunity, we have reported that short-duration stressors significantly enhance skin DTH and that a stress-induced trafficking of leukocytes to the skin may mediate this immunoenhancement. Here, we identify the hormonal mediators of a stress-induced enhancement of skin immunity. Adrenalectomy, which eliminates the glucocorticoid and epinephrine stress response, eliminated the stress-induced enhancement of skin DTH. Low-dose corticosterone or epinephrine administration significantly enhanced skin DTH and produced a significant increase in the number of T cells in lymph nodes draining the site of the DTH reaction. In contrast, high-dose corticosterone, chronic corticosterone, or low-dose dexamethasone administration significantly suppressed skin DTH. These results suggest a role for adrenal stress hormones as endogenous immunoenhancing agents. These results also show that hormones released during an acute stress response may help prepare the immune system for potential challenges (e.g., wounding or infection) for which stress perception by the brain may serve as an early warning signal.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                NIM
                Neuroimmunomodulation
                10.1159/issn.1021-7401
                Neuroimmunomodulation
                S. Karger AG
                978-3-8055-8294-0
                978-3-318-01504-1
                1021-7401
                1423-0216
                2006
                August 2007
                22 August 2007
                : 13
                : 5-6
                : 277-282
                Affiliations
                aResearch Laboratory and Academic Clinical Unit of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy; bLaboratory of Experimental Rheumatology and Neuroendocrino-Immunology, Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine I, University Hospital, Regensburg, Germany
                Article
                104855 Neuroimmunomodulation 2006;13:277–282
                10.1159/000104855
                17709949
                © 2006 S. Karger AG, Basel

                Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in government regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug. Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.

                Page count
                Figures: 3, References: 42, Pages: 6
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