Differential effects of psychological and immunological challenge on the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis function in adjuvant-induced arthritis

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999 Jun 22:876:43-52. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1999.tb07621.x.


Inability to mount a suitable glucocorticoid response to a stressor can be life-threatening. Rats with hind-paw inflammation, associated with the development of adjuvant-induced arthritis (AA), are unable to mount a hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis response to acute stress. In the present study we have compared the effects of acute psychological stress (noise) and acute immunological challenge (lipopolysaccharide [LPS] injection), on the activation of the HPA axis in rats with the chronic inflammatory stress of AA. We conclude that the increase in HPA axis activity in AA is principally due to an increase in corticosterone pulse frequency and not to any alteration in pulse magnitude. The lack of response to acute stress can be accounted for by the increase in pulse frequency and the associated refractory period following each pulse, producing dramatic but specific changes in basal HPA function. These changes may account for the loss of responsiveness to acute stress, but not to acute immunological challenge, because the HPA axis is able to respond to LPS in male rats with AA. However, there appears to be an impaired adrenal responsiveness in female rats with AA that is not inherent, but occurs as a consequence of the development of inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Experimental / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology*
  • Immune System / physiopathology*
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*