Interactions among the effects of aging, chronic disease, and stress on adrenocortical function in Syrian hamsters

John E. Ottenweller, Walter N. Tapp, David L. Pitman, Benjamin H. Natelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations

Abstract

This study examined the effects of aging and chronic congestive heart failure on plasma corticosterone and cortisol levels in hamsters. It also assessed the effects of aging and heart failure on glucocorticoid responses to acute and chronic stress. Aging in healthy hamsters increased plasma cortisol levels, decreased corticosterone levels, and did not change total glucocorticoid levels. A similar pattern occurred as cardiomyopathic (CM) hamsters aged, until they developed severe heart failure. Plasma cortisol levels fell in CM hamsters with severe heart failure, and corticosterone levels remained low, so total glucocorticoid levels fell. Adrenocortical function similarly declined in very old healthy hamsters near the ends of their lives. Adrenocortical responses to acute and chronic stress were diminished in old healthy hamsters, and heart failure in CM hamsters also reduced the glucocorticoid responses to chronic stress. However, heart failure greatly enhanced the cortisol and total glucocorticoid responses to acute stress, but not that of corticosterone. These data suggest a number of conclusions. First, aging clearly changes the the ratio of corticosterone to cortisol in hamster plasma without changing total glucocorticoid levels and blunts adrenocortical responses to acute and chronic stress. Second, ill health, in the form of severe heart failure in CM hamsters and very old age in healthy hamsters, decreases adrenocortical function. At the same time, heart failure greatly enhances cortisol responses to acute stress. These results indicate that aging and chronic disease in hamsters have many similar effects on adrenocortical function, but that disease alone sensitizes them to the effects of acute stress. (Endocrinology 126: 102-109, 1990).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-109
Number of pages8
JournalEndocrinology
Volume126
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990

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