When less is more: hormesis against stress and disease

Microb Cell. 2014 May 5;1(5):150-153. doi: 10.15698/mic2014.05.148.


All living organisms need to adapt to ever changing adverse conditions in order to survive. The phenomenon termed hormesis describes an evolutionarily conserved process by which a cell or an entire organism can be preconditioned, meaning that previous exposure to low doses of an insult protects against a higher, normally harmful or lethal dose of the same stressor. Growing evidence suggests that hormesis is directly linked to an organism's (or cell's) capability to cope with pathological conditions such as aging and age-related diseases. Here, we condense the conceptual and potentially therapeutic importance of hormesis by providing a short overview of current evidence in favor of the cytoprotective impact of hormesis, as well as of its underlying molecular mechanisms.

Keywords: aging; hormesis; neurodegeneration; stress resistance; therapeutic preconditioning.

Publication types

  • Review

Grant support

This work was supported by the Austrian Science Fund FWF (grants LIPOTOX, I1000, P23490-B12, and P24381-B20 to F.M.). This work was also supported by grants to G.K. from the Ligue Contre le Cancer (Équipe Labelisée), Agence National de la Recherche (ANR), Association Pour la Recherche sur le Cancer (ARC), Cancéropôle Ile-de-France; AXA Chair for Longevity Research, Institut National du Cancer (INCa), Fondation Bettencourt-Schueller, Fondation de France, Fondation pour la Recherche Médicale (FRM), the European Commission (ArtForce), the European Research Council (ERC), the LabEx Immuno-Oncology, the SIRIC Stratified Oncology Cell DNA Repair and Tumor Immune Elimination (SOCRATE), the SIRIC Cancer Research and Personalized Medicine (CARPEM), and the Paris Alliance of Cancer Research Institutes (PACRI).