Role of cortisol and superoxide dismutase in psychological stress induced anovulation

Gen Comp Endocrinol. 2016 Jan 1:225:117-124. doi: 10.1016/j.ygcen.2015.09.010. Epub 2015 Sep 21.


Stress has been identified as a potential trigger for reproductive dysfunctions, but the psycho-physiological pathway behind the effect of stress on ovulation remains unexplored. The present research work highlights the plausible mechanism of psychological stress on ovulation in mice by targeting superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme involved in ovulation. For this, three consecutive studies were carried out. The first study aimed to determine the effect of psychological stress induced change in cortisol level, behavioral parameters and normal estrous cyclicity. The effect on mRNA expression of SOD subtypes, follicular growth in histological sections of ovaries and the difference in oocyte quality and number, upon superovulation were assessed in the subsequent studies. The results indicate that psychological stress model causes an increase in cortisol level (p⩽0.05) with development of anhedonia, depression and anxiety. An irregular estrous cycle was observed in stressed mice with an upregulation in mRNA expression of SOD subtypes. Histological sections revealed an increase in atretic antral follicle with an impaired follicular development. Moreover, immature oocytes were obtained from superovulated stressed mice. The study concludes that psychological stress results in anovulation which may be due to increase in cortisol level and SOD activity in stressed mice.

Keywords: Anovulation; Antioxidants; Cortisol; Stress; Superoxide dismutase.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anovulation / blood
  • Anovulation / etiology*
  • Anovulation / psychology
  • Female
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Oocytes / metabolism
  • Ovarian Follicle / metabolism
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Superoxide Dismutase / metabolism


  • Superoxide Dismutase
  • Hydrocortisone