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Exp Gerontol. 2011 Feb-Mar;46(2-3):90-5. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2010.08.023. Epub 2010 Sep 9.

HPA axis responsiveness to stress: implications for healthy aging.

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  • Section on Endocrine Physiology, Program on Developmental Endocrinology and Genetics, Eunice Kennedy Shiver Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA. Greti_Aguilera@nih.gov


The major neuroendocrine response mediating stress adaptation is activation of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis, with stimulation of corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) and vasopressin (VP) from parvocellular neurons of the hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus, leading to stimulation of pituitary ACTH secretion and increases in glucocorticoid secretion from the adrenal cortex. Basal production and transient increases during stress of glucocorticoids and its hypothalamic regulators are essential for neuronal plasticity and normal brain function. While activation of the HPA axis is essential for survival during stress, chronic exposure to stress hormones can predispose to psychological, metabolic and immune alterations. Thus, prompt termination of the stress response is essential to prevent negative effects of inappropriate levels of CRH and glucocorticoids. This review addresses the regulation of HPA axis activity with emphasis on the mechanisms of termination of CRH transcription, which is a critical step in this process. In addition, the actions by which glucocorticoids, CRH and VP can affect the aging process will be discussed.

Published by Elsevier Inc.

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