A translational approach to clinical practice via stress-responsive glucocorticoid receptor signaling
A recent article by Kwan and colleagues could elegantly demonstrate the necessary interaction between neuronal serotonin (5-HT) systems and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis through glucocorticoid receptors (GR), producing an adequate stress response, in this case, responding to hypoxia with an increase in hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPC). There is an intricate system connecting brain, body and mind and this exchange is only possible when all these systems—nervous, endocrine, and immune—have receptors on critical cells to receive information (via messenger molecules) from each of the other systems. There is evidence that the expression and function of GR in the hippocampus, mainly MR, is regulated by the stimulation of 5-HT receptors. Stressful stimuli increase 5-HT release and turnover in the hippocampus, and it seems reasonable to suggest that some of the changes in mineralocorticoid and GR expression may be mediated, in part at least, by the increase in 5-HT. Also serotonin and HPA axis dysfunctions have already been implicated in a variety of psychiatric disorders, especially depression. Early life stress (ELS) can have profound impact on these systems and can predispose subjects to a variety of adult metabolic and psychiatric conditions. It is important to analyze the mechanisms of this complex interaction and its subsequent programming effects on the stress systems, so that we can find new ways and targets for treatment of psychiatric disorders. Different areas of research on basic biological sciences are now being integrated and this approach will hopefully provide several new insights, new pharmacological targets and improve our global understanding of these highly debilitating chronic conditions, that we now call mental disorders.