Modulation of in vivo oxidative status by exogenous corticosterone and restraint stress in rats

Stress. 2009 Mar;12(2):167-77. doi: 10.1080/10253890802234168.


Physical and psychological stressors not only enhance activity of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, but also cause oxidative damage by inducing an imbalance between the in vivo pro-oxidant and antioxidant status. The involvement of adrenal steroid stress hormones in oxidative damage associated with these stressors has not been extensively investigated. Therefore, this study was designed to probe any direct role of glucocorticoids on induction of oxidative processes by comparing the effects of low, intermediate and high doses of exogenously administered corticosterone, without other applied stressors, on a wide range of key components of the antioxidant defence system. The data presented here indicate a substantial decline in antioxidant defences by actions of corticosterone, evidenced by coordinate decreases in the activities in the brain, liver and heart of free-radical scavenging enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione S-transferase (GST) and glutathione reductase (GR), as well as the non-enzymatic antioxidants glutathione (GSH) and serum urate. Also, lipid peroxidation and protein carbonyl contents, oxidative stress markers, were found to be significantly increased in brain, liver and heart. The compromised in vivo antioxidant status was strikingly analogous to the deleterious effects of restraint stress, indicating a direct effect of stress hormones on induction of oxidative damage during physical or psychological stress. A dose-dependent decrease of SOD and CAT, and increase in protein oxidation was observed between the high (40 mg/kg) and low (10 mg/kg) doses of corticosterone. The findings have fundamental implications for oxidative stress as a major pathological mechanism in the maladaptation to chronic stress. Thus, the study suggests that stress hormones have a causal role in impacting oxidative processes induced during the adaptive response. This may hold important implications for pharmacological interventions targeting cellular antioxidants as a promising strategy for protecting against oxidative insults in various psychiatric and non-psychiatric conditions induced by physical or psychological stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Catalase / metabolism
  • Corticosterone / pharmacology*
  • Glutathione / metabolism
  • Glutathione Reductase / metabolism
  • Glutathione Transferase / metabolism
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Liver / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology*
  • Protein Carbonylation / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Restraint, Physical
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism
  • Uric Acid / blood


  • Antioxidants
  • Uric Acid
  • Catalase
  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Glutathione Reductase
  • Glutathione Transferase
  • Glutathione
  • Corticosterone