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PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e43232. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043232. Epub 2012 Sep 19.

Effects of psychological stress on innate immunity and metabolism in humans: a systematic analysis.

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  • 1School of Biological Sciences, National Institute of Science Education and Research, Institute of Physics Campus, Sachivalaya Marg, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India.


Stress is perhaps easiest to conceptualize as a process which allows an organism to accommodate for the demands of its environment such that it can adapt to the prevailing set of conditions. Psychological stress is an important component with the potential to affect physiology adversely as has become evident from various studies in the area. Although these studies have established numerous effects of psychological stress on physiology, a global strategy for the correlation of these effects has yet to begin. Our comparative and systematic analysis of the published literature has unraveled certain interesting molecular mechanisms as clues to account for some of the observed effects of psychological stress on human physiology. In this study, we attempt to understand initial phase of the physiological response to psychological stress by analyzing interactions between innate immunity and metabolism at systems level by analyzing the data available in the literature. In light of our gene association-networks and enrichment analysis we have identified candidate genes and molecular systems which might have some associative role in affecting psychological stress response system or even producing some of the observed terminal effects (such as the associated physiological disorders). In addition to the already accepted role of psychological stress as a perturbation that can disrupt physiological homeostasis, we speculate that it is potentially capable of causing deviation of certain biological processes from their basal level activity after which they can return back to their basal tones once the effects of stress diminish. Based on the derived inferences of our comparative analysis, we have proposed a probabilistic mechanism for how psychological stress could affect physiology such that these adaptive deviations are sometimes not able to bounce back to their original basal tones, and thus increase physiological susceptibility to metabolic and immune imbalance.

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