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The three-way interactions between the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal & gonadal axes & the immune system

  [ 13 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • May 8, 1996

The stress system is controlled by brain nuclei at the
hypothalamus and brainstem. These nuclei interact with each
otherand control the HPA axis and sympathetic nervous
systems,respectively. Major inputs to the stress system
arise from the cerebral cortex and subcortical systems, the
sensory organs and nerves, and the endocrine and immune
systems. The major peripheral effectors of the stress system
are glucocorticoids and the catecholamines. Pathological
hypoactivity of the stress system has been associated with
atypical depression, the chronicfatigue/fibromyalgia
syndromes and autoimmune inflammatorydisease; hyperactivity
with melancholic depression and anxiety disorders.

The stress system responds in a quantitatively and qualitatively
specific fashion to different stressors. A major role of the
HPA axis is to restrain the immune system and prevent tissue
damage. Reciprocal interactions between the HPA axis and
immune system constitutes a new endocrine feedback loop that
has given rise to the field of neuroendocrine immunology.
Gonadalaxis hormones directly, and indirectly via the HPA
axis, alter the tone of the immune system and the quality and
quantity of the inflammatory responses. Effects of the HPA
axis on the gonadal axis are consistent with conservation and
redirection of valuable resources towards homeostasis during
times of stress. Thesecomplex interactions between the HPA
axis, immune and the gonadalsystems may prove to be
fundamental in the genesis and perpetuation of autoimmune

Torpy DJ, Chrousos GP

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