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Study identifies a protein trigger for stress processes in the brain

Posted:  Friday, December 05, 2014

Stress is a multi-factorial condition and it has now emerged that a protein trigger in the brain sets off the hormone cascade which is typical in stress. The protein, named secretagogin, might be responsible for the release of the corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH), which enables the stress processes in the brain to be transmitted to the pituitary and onward to other organs. The results of the study were published in the EMBO Journal.

Upon experiencing stress, the hypothalamus responds by enabling CRH which in turn stimulates the production and release of the hormone ACTH from the pituitary glands in the blood stream. The ACTH hormone in turn activates the adrenal gland for the production and release of cortisol and other stress hormones. If this cycle is interrupted, then it is not possible for acute or chronic stress to arise.

"If, however, the presence of secretagogin, a calcium-binding protein, is suppressed, then CRH might not be released in the hypothalamus of the brain thus preventing the triggering of hormonal responses to stress in the body," explained Tibor Harkany, one of the researchers. Interestingly, these researchers had discovered secretagogin 15 years back in connection with pancreatic research.

The consequences of stress can range from occasional symptoms like headache and tinnitus to increasing the risk of disorders like hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even osteoporosis. The finding that a protein is connected to stress has opened up a window of opportunity wherein it can be deployed as a tool to treat stress in people suffering from depression, burnout, post-traumatic stress disorder and also chronic stress.

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