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Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to acute psychosocial stress: Effects of biological sex and circulating sex hormones.
Psychoneuroendocrinology 2016; 66:47-55P

Abstract

Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis influences the risk for developing stress-related disorders. Sex-dependent differences in the HPA axis stress response are believed to contribute to the different prevalence rates of stress-related disorders found in men and women. However, studies examining the HPA axis stress response have shown mixed support for sex differences, and the role of endogenous sex hormones on HPA axis response has not been adequately examined in humans. This study utilized the largest sample size to date to analyze the effects of biological sex and sex hormones on HPA axis social stress responses. Healthy, 18- to 30- year-old community volunteers (N=282) completed the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), a widely used and well-validated stress-induction laboratory procedure. All women (n=135) were tested during the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle (when progesterone levels are most similar to men). Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol measures were collected at multiple points throughout pre- and post-TSST. Testosterone and progesterone (in men) and progesterone and estradiol (in women) were determined pre-TSST. Following the TSST, men had greater ACTH and cortisol levels than women. Men had steeper baseline-to-peak and peak-to-end ACTH and cortisol response slopes than women; there was a trend for more cortisol responders among men than women. Testosterone negatively correlated with salivary cortisol response in men, while progesterone negatively correlated with ACTH and cortisol responses in women. These data confirm that men show more robust activation of the HPA axis response to the TSST than do women in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. Testosterone results suggest an inhibitory effect on HPA axis reactivity in men. Progesterone results suggest an inhibitory effect on HPA axis reactivity in women. Future work is needed to explain why men mount a greater ACTH and cortisol response to the TSST than do women during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle.

Authors+Show Affiliations

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 550 N. Broadway, Suite 115, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA. Electronic address: mchutua1@jhmi.edu.Mood Disorders Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 600 N. Wolfe St, Phipps 300, Baltimore, MD 21287, USA. Electronic address: pbelmon2@jhmi.edu.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 550 N. Broadway, Suite 115, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA. Electronic address: betsymc@jhmi.edu.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 550 N. Broadway, Suite 115, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA; Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 720 Rutland Ave., Ross Building, Rm 863, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA. Electronic address: gwand@jhmi.edu.

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article
Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

Language

eng

PubMed ID

26773400

Citation

Stephens, Mary Ann C., et al. "Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal Axis Response to Acute Psychosocial Stress: Effects of Biological Sex and Circulating Sex Hormones." Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 66, 2016, pp. 47-55.
Stephens MA, Mahon PB, McCaul ME, et al. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to acute psychosocial stress: Effects of biological sex and circulating sex hormones. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016;66:47-55.
Stephens, M. A., Mahon, P. B., McCaul, M. E., & Wand, G. S. (2016). Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to acute psychosocial stress: Effects of biological sex and circulating sex hormones. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 66, pp. 47-55. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2015.12.021.
Stephens MA, et al. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal Axis Response to Acute Psychosocial Stress: Effects of Biological Sex and Circulating Sex Hormones. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2016;66:47-55. PubMed PMID: 26773400.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis response to acute psychosocial stress: Effects of biological sex and circulating sex hormones. AU - Stephens,Mary Ann C, AU - Mahon,Pamela B, AU - McCaul,Mary E, AU - Wand,Gary S, Y1 - 2015/12/24/ PY - 2015/08/25/received PY - 2015/11/23/revised PY - 2015/12/17/accepted PY - 2016/1/17/entrez PY - 2016/1/17/pubmed PY - 2016/12/24/medline KW - Cortisol KW - Progesterone KW - Sex differences KW - Stress KW - TSST KW - Testosterone SP - 47 EP - 55 JF - Psychoneuroendocrinology JO - Psychoneuroendocrinology VL - 66 N2 - Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis influences the risk for developing stress-related disorders. Sex-dependent differences in the HPA axis stress response are believed to contribute to the different prevalence rates of stress-related disorders found in men and women. However, studies examining the HPA axis stress response have shown mixed support for sex differences, and the role of endogenous sex hormones on HPA axis response has not been adequately examined in humans. This study utilized the largest sample size to date to analyze the effects of biological sex and sex hormones on HPA axis social stress responses. Healthy, 18- to 30- year-old community volunteers (N=282) completed the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST), a widely used and well-validated stress-induction laboratory procedure. All women (n=135) were tested during the follicular phase of their menstrual cycle (when progesterone levels are most similar to men). Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol measures were collected at multiple points throughout pre- and post-TSST. Testosterone and progesterone (in men) and progesterone and estradiol (in women) were determined pre-TSST. Following the TSST, men had greater ACTH and cortisol levels than women. Men had steeper baseline-to-peak and peak-to-end ACTH and cortisol response slopes than women; there was a trend for more cortisol responders among men than women. Testosterone negatively correlated with salivary cortisol response in men, while progesterone negatively correlated with ACTH and cortisol responses in women. These data confirm that men show more robust activation of the HPA axis response to the TSST than do women in the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. Testosterone results suggest an inhibitory effect on HPA axis reactivity in men. Progesterone results suggest an inhibitory effect on HPA axis reactivity in women. Future work is needed to explain why men mount a greater ACTH and cortisol response to the TSST than do women during the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle. SN - 1873-3360 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/26773400/Hypothalamic_pituitary_adrenal_axis_response_to_acute_psychosocial_stress:_Effects_of_biological_sex_and_circulating_sex_hormones_ L2 - https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0306-4530(15)30047-0 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -