The protein p11 appears to play an important role in the stress response and in the development of depression and anxiety, according to the results of a new study involving researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The study was published in the English language journal “Molecular Psychiatry”.
Persistent stress is associated with numerous health risks, but the stress response can vary significantly from person to person and the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. According to a recent study, a specific protein in the brain could have a significant influence on the stress response and also on the risk of anxiety disorders and depression.
Some people develop an abnormal or chronic stress response after trauma or severe stress. This increases the risk of other diseases such as depression and anxiety. However, it is still unclear which mechanisms play a role in this or how the stress response is regulated.
A certain protein in the brain is particularly important for the function of the mood-regulating substance serotonin as well as for the release of stress hormones, at least in mice, the researchers report. Depressed persons and suicide victims have lower levels of the p11 protein in their brains and laboratory mice with reduced p11 levels show depression- and anxiety-like behavior, the experts further explain.
Effects of stress
The new study now shows that p11 affects the initial release of the stress hormone cortisol in mice by modulating the activity of certain neurons in the hypothalamus region of the brain. Through a completely different signaling pathway originating from the brain stem, p11 also influences the release of two other stress hormones, adrenaline and norepinephrine.
In addition, the tests showed that mice with p11 deficiency responded more strongly to stress compared to mice with normal p11 levels, which was associated with a higher heart rate and more signs of anxiety, the research team explained.
“We know that an abnormal stress response can trigger or aggravate depression and cause anxiety disorders and cardiovascular disease. It is important to find out whether the connection between p11 deficiency and stress reaction, which we observe in mice, can also be established in humans,” emphasizes study author Vasco Sousa of Karolinska Institutet in a press release.
Protein influences stress and development of depression
“Another interesting approach that needs to be investigated is the development of drugs that block the triggering of the stress hormone response in the brain,” adds study author Professor Per Svenningsson. (as)
The researchers hope that the results of their investigation could have an impact on the development of new, more effective drugs. There is a great need for new therapies because current antidepressants are not effective enough in many people. A promising approach is the administration of drugs that enhance localized p11 expression, the researchers further report. Experiments in animal models of depression that follow this approach are already being conducted.
WashingtonNewsday Health and Wellness.