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Stress and Affective Disorders: Animal Models Elucidating the Molecular Basis of Neuroendocrine-Behavior Interactions


Touma,  C.
AG Touma, Chadi, Florian Holsboer (Direktor), Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry, Max Planck Society;

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Touma, C. (2011). Stress and Affective Disorders: Animal Models Elucidating the Molecular Basis of Neuroendocrine-Behavior Interactions. Pharmacopsychiatry, 44(Suppl. 1), S15-S26.

Profound dysfunctions in several neuroendocrine systems have been described in patients suffering from affective disorders such as major depression. In order to elucidate the mechanisms underlying these functional alterations, animal models including mice genetically modified by either direct gene-targeting or by selective breeding approaches have been used exceedingly, revealing valuable insights into neuroendocrine pathways conserved between rodents and men. This review focuses on altered function and regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical axis, including its involvement in emotionality and stress responsiveness. In this context, the corticotropin-releasing hormone system and disturbances in glucocorticoid receptor signaling seem to be of central importance. However, changes in the expression and release patterns of vasopressin, dopamine and serotonin have also been shown to contribute to variation in emotionality, stress coping, cognitive functions and social behaviors. Affective disorders show a high degree of complexity, involving a multitude of molecular, neuroendocrine, and behavioral alterations as well as an intense gene-environment interaction, making it difficult to dissociate the primary causes from secondary consequences of the disease. Thus, interdisciplinary research, as applied in the emerging field of systems biology, involving adequate animal models and combined methodologies can significantly contribute to our understanding regarding the transmission of genetic predispositions into clinically relevant endophenotypes. It is only with deep insight into the mechanisms by which the stress hormone systems are regulated that novel treatment strategies and promising targets for therapeutic interventions can be developed in the future. Such in-depth understanding is ultimately essential to realizing our goal of predictive, preventive, and personalized medicine.