skip to main content

Title: Stress Resilience and the Dynamic Regulation of Glucocorticoids
Abstract

Vertebrates respond to a diversity of stressors by rapidly elevating glucocorticoid (GC) levels. The changes in physiology and behavior triggered by this response can be crucial for surviving a variety of challenges. Yet the same process that is invaluable in coping with immediate threats can also impose substantial damage over time. In addition to the pathological effects of long-term exposure to stress hormones, even relatively brief elevations can impair the expression of a variety of behaviors and physiological processes central to fitness, including sexual behavior, parental behavior, and immune function. Therefore, the ability to rapidly and effectively terminate the short-term response to stress may be fundamental to surviving and reproducing in dynamic environments. Here we review the evidence that variation in the ability to terminate the stress response through negative feedback is an important component of stress coping capacity. We suggest that coping capacity may also be influenced by variation in the dynamic regulation of GCs—specifically, the ability to rapidly turn on and off the stress response. Most tests of the fitness effects of these traits to date have focused on organisms experiencing severe or prolonged stressors. Here we use data collected from a long-term study of tree swallows more » (Tachycineta bicolor) to test whether variation in negative feedback, or other measures of GC regulation, predict components of fitness in non-chronically stressed populations. We find relatively consistent, but generally weak relationships between different fitness components and the strength of negative feedback. Reproductive success was highest in individuals that both mounted a robust stress response and had strong negative feedback. We did not see consistent evidence of a relationship between negative feedback and adult or nestling survival: negative feedback was retained in the best supported models of nestling and adult survival, but in two of three survival-related analyses the intercept-only model received only slightly less support. Both negative feedback and stress-induced GC levels—but not baseline GCs—were individually repeatable. These measures of GC activity did not consistently covary across ages and life history stages, indicating that they are independently regulated. Overall, the patterns seen here are consistent with the predictions that negative feedback—and the dynamic regulation of GCs—are important components of stress coping capacity, but that the fitness benefits of having strong negative feedback during the reproductive period are likely to manifest primarily in individuals exposed to chronic or repeated stressors.

« less
Authors:
 ;  ;  ;  
Award ID(s):
1840903
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10115797
Journal Name:
Integrative and Comparative Biology
ISSN:
1540-7063
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Despite decades of research, we still lack a complete understanding of what factors influence the transition of the necessary and adaptive acute stress response to what has become known as chronic stress. This gap in knowledge has illuminated the necessity for studies that examine the thresholds between these two sides of the stress response. Here, we determine how repeated exposure to acute stressors influences physiological and behavioral responses. In this repeated measures study, house sparrows ( Passer domesticus ) were exposed to a chronic stress protocol. We took physiological and behavioral measurements before, during, and after the protocol. Blood samples were used to assess four aspects of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis function: baseline corticosterone, stress-induced corticosterone, negative feedback, and the maximal capacity to secrete corticosterone. We also assessed bacterial killing capacity and changes in uric acid concentration. Neophobia trials were used to assess behavioral changes throughout the protocol. We found no significant changes in HPA axis regulation in any of the four aspects we tested. However, we found that uric acid concentrations and neophobia significantly decreased after only four days of the chronic stress protocol, while bacterial killing capacity did not decrease until after eight days of exposure. These results indicatemore »that different components of the stress response can be impacted by chronic stress on different timescales. Our results further indicate the importance of assessing multiple aspects of both physiology and behavior in order to understand how exposure to chronic stress may influence ability to cope with future challenges.« less
  2. ABSTRACT Developing animals display a tremendous ability to change the course of their developmental path in response to the environment they experience, a concept referred to as developmental plasticity. This change in behavior, physiology or cellular processes is primarily thought to allow animals to better accommodate themselves to the surrounding environment. However, existing data on developmental stress and whether it brings about beneficial or detrimental outcomes show conflicting results. There are several well-referred hypotheses related to developmental stress in the current literature, such as the environmental matching, silver spoon and thrifty phenotype hypotheses. These hypotheses speculate that the early-life environment defines the capacity of the physiological functions and behavioral tendencies and that this change is permanent and impacts the fitness of the individual. These hypotheses also postulate there is a trade-off among organ systems and physiological functions when resources are insufficient. Published data on avian taxa show that some effects of developmental nutritional and thermal stressors are long lasting, such as the effects on body mass and birdsong. Although hypotheses on developmental stress are based on fitness components, data on reproduction and survival are scarce, making it difficult to determine which hypothesis these data support. Furthermore, most physiological and performancemore »measures are collected only once; thus, the physiological mechanisms remain undertested. Here, we offer potential avenues of research to identify reasons behind the contrasting results in developmental stress research and possible ways to determine whether developmental programming due to stressors is beneficial or detrimental, including quantifying reproduction and survival in multiple environments, measuring temporal changes in physiological variables and testing for stress resistance later in life.« less
  3. Saretzki, Gabriele (Ed.)
    Background The neuroendocrine stress response allows vertebrates to cope with stressors via the activation of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, which ultimately results in the secretion of glucocorticoids (GCs). Glucocorticoids have pleiotropic effects on behavior and physiology, and might influence telomere length dynamics. During a stress event, GCs mobilize energy towards survival mechanisms rather than to telomere maintenance. Additionally, reactive oxygen species produced in response to increased GC levels can damage telomeres, also leading to telomere shortening. In our systematic review and meta-analysis, we tested whether GC levels impact telomere length and if this relationship differs among time frame, life history stage, or stressor type. We hypothesized that elevated GC levels are linked to a decrease in telomere length. Methods We conducted a literature search for studies investigating the relationship between telomere length and GCs in non-human vertebrates using four search engines: Web of Science, Google Scholar, Pubmed and Scopus, last searched on September 27th, 2020. This review identified 31 studies examining the relationship between GCs and telomere length. We pooled the data using Fisher’s Z for 15 of these studies. All quantitative studies underwent a risk of bias assessment. This systematic review study was registered in the Open Science Frameworkmore »Registry ( https://osf.io/rqve6 ). Results The pooled effect size from fifteen studies and 1066 study organisms shows no relationship between GCs and telomere length (Fisher’s Z = 0.1042, 95% CI = 0.0235; 0.1836). Our meta-analysis synthesizes results from 15 different taxa from the mammalian, avian, amphibian groups. While these results support some previous findings, other studies have found a direct relationship between GCs and telomere dynamics, suggesting underlying mechanisms or concepts that were not taken into account in our analysis. The risk of bias assessment revealed an overall low risk of bias with occasional instances of bias from missing outcome data or bias in the reported result. Conclusion We highlight the need for more targeted experiments to understand how conditions, such as experimental timeframes, stressor(s), and stressor magnitudes can drive a relationship between the neuroendocrine stress response and telomere length.« less
  4. de Vries, Ronald P. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT Septation in filamentous fungi is a normal part of development, which involves the formation of cross-hyphal bulkheads, typically containing pores, allowing cytoplasmic streaming between compartments. Based on previous findings regarding septa and cell wall stress, we hypothesized that septa are critical for survival during cell wall stress. To test this hypothesis, we used known Aspergillus nidulans septation-deficient mutants (Δ sepH , Δ bud3 , Δ bud4 , and Δ rho4 ) and six antifungal compounds. Three of these compounds (micafungin, Congo red, and calcofluor white) are known cell wall stressors which activate the cell wall integrity signaling pathway (CWIS), while the three others (cycloheximide, miconazole, and 2,3-butanedione monoxime) perturb specific cellular processes not explicitly related to the cell wall. Our results show that deficiencies in septation lead to fungi which are more susceptible to cell wall-perturbing compounds but are no more susceptible to other antifungal compounds than a control. This implies that septa play a critical role in surviving cell wall stress. IMPORTANCE The ability to compartmentalize potentially lethal damage via septation appears to provide filamentous fungi with a facile means to tolerate diverse forms of stress. However, it remains unknown whether this mechanism is deployed in response tomore »all forms of stress or is limited to specific perturbations. Our results support the latter possibility by showing that presence of septa promotes survival in response to cell wall damage but plays no apparent role in coping with other unrelated forms of stress. Given that cell wall damage is a primary effect caused by exposure to the echinocandin class of antifungal agents, our results emphasize the important role that septa might play in enabling resistance to these drugs. Accordingly, the inhibition of septum formation could conceivably represent an attractive approach to potentiating the effects of echinocandins and mitigating resistance in human fungal pathogens.« less
  5. Abstract Ten years ago, two reviews clarified the need to tie glucocorticoid (GC) levels directly to survival and reproductive measures. Three primary hypotheses emerged from that work: the CORT-Fitness hypothesis, the CORT-Adaptation hypothesis, and the CORT-Tradeoff hypothesis. The two reviews have since been cited nearly 900 times, but no clear consensus has emerged supporting one hypothesis over another. We propose that resource availability may be a major confound across studies. Life-history investment is determined by both allocation and acquisition, but current literature testing among the three GC-fitness hypotheses rarely incorporate metrics of resource availability. In 1986, van Noordwijk and de Jong (vN and dJ) proposed the acquisition/allocation Y-model to explain positive versus negative correlations between reproduction and survival across individuals. Their model elevated resources as critical to evaluating individual allocation strategies (favoring reproduction vs. survival), and therefore provides the ideal framework for testing across the three CORT hypotheses. Here, we review the three hypotheses in light of the last 10 years of data, introduce the vN and dJ framework as a model for fitness/GC hypothesis testing, and discuss best practices for using this framework. We believe incorporation of resource availability will reduce unexplained variability in GC-fitness tests, clarify support among themore »three hypotheses, and allow for greater power in testing across other context dependencies (e.g., life-history strategy) that likely regulate differential allocation to reproduction versus survival as GCs increase.« less