Evaluation of the HPA Axis' Response to Pharmacological Challenges in Experimental and Clinical Early-Life Stress-Associated Depression

Nayara Cobra Barreiro Barroca, Cristiane Von Werne Baes, Camila Maria Severi Martins-Monteverde, Nayanne Beckmann Bosaipo, Marcia Santos da Silva Umeoka, Julian Tejada, José Antunes-Rodrigues, Margaret de Castro, Mario Francisco Juruena, Norberto Garcia-Cairasco, Eduardo Henrique de Lima Umeoka

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2 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


Early-life stress (ELS) is associated with a higher risk of psychopathologies in adulthood, such as depression, which may be related to persistent changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of ELS on the functioning of the HPA axis in clinical and experimental situations. Clinically, patients with current depressive episodes, with and without ELS, and healthy controls, composed the sample. Subjects took a capsule containing placebo, fludrocortisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone or spironolactone followed by an assessment of plasma cortisol the morning after. Experimentally, male Wistar rats were submitted to ELS protocol based on variable, unpredictable stressors from postnatal day (PND)1 to PND21. On PND65 animals were behaviorally evaluated through the forced-swimming test (FST). At PND68, pharmacological challenges started, using mifepristone, dexamethasone, spironolactone, or fludrocortisone, and corticosterone levels were determined 3 h after injections. Cortisol response of the patients did not differ significantly from healthy subjects, regardless of their ELS history, and it was lower after fludrocortisone, prednisolone, and dexamethasone compared with placebo, indicating the suppression of plasma cortisol by all these treatments. Animals exposed to ELS presented altered phenotype as indicated by an increased immobility time in the FST when compared with control, but no significant long-lasting effects of ELS were observed on the HPA axis response. Limitations on the way the volunteers were sampled may have contributed to the lack of ELS effects on the HPA axis, pointing out the need for further research to understand these complex phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2020


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