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Endocrine. 1996 Aug;5(1):33-9. doi: 10.1007/BF02738653.

Chronic stress down-regulates growth hormone gene expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells of older adults.

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Department of Internal Medicine, The Ohio State University Medical Center, Columbus, OH,


"Pituitary" peptides are produced in both endocrine and immune cells. Acute and chronic stress can alter pituitary peptide secretion and might also influence neuroendocrine gene expression in human immune cells. We reasoned that, in Alzheimer caregivers, the chronic stress of caregiving would impact on the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary and hypothalamicpituitary-adrenal axis possibly leading to alterations in GH mRNA in their peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Therefore, we evaluated 10 caregivers and 10 controls subjects using a math and speech stress protocol to determine their neuroendocrine profile and to evaluate any relationship with mononuclear cell GH mRNA levels simultaneously acquired and then evaluated by a quantitative competitive RT-PCR technique. We found a significant (p<.0001) decrease 50% in GH mRNA levels in cells from caregivers. Plasma ACTH and norepinephrine levels were negatively correlated with GH mRNA levels, suggesting their possible role in the down-regulation of mononuclear cell GH gene expression. These observations support the hypothesis that experiences associated with caregiving alter the brain's autonomic nervous system and neuroendocrine control of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis. These and perhaps other influences may then produce altered GH gene expression in mononuclear cells of chronically stressed individuals. It is tempting to speculate that the decreased GH mRNA that we found in these chronically stressed caregivers was partially responsible for their poor response to influenza vaccine and their delayed wound healing.

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