Social stress exacerbates stroke outcome by suppressing Bcl-2 expression

A. Courtney DeVries, Hung-Dong Joh, Ora Bernard, Kimihiko Hattori, Patricia D. Hurn, Richard J. Traystman, and Nabil J. AlkayedPNAS September 25, 2001 98 (20) 11824-11828;

  1. Edited by Bruce S. McEwen, The Rockefeller University, New York, NY, and approved August 7, 2001 (received for review May 2, 2001)


The relationship between stressful life events and the onset of disease is well documented. However, the role of psychological stress as a risk factor for life-threatening cerebrovascular insults such as stroke remains unspecified, but could explain individual variation in stroke outcome. To discover the mechanisms through which psychological stress may alter stroke outcome, we modeled the effects of chronic social intimidation and stress on ischemia-induced bcl-2 expression and early neuronal cell loss resulting from cerebral artery occlusion in mice (C57BL/6). The bcl-2 protooncogene promotes cell survival and protects against apoptosis and cellular necrosis in numerous neurodegenerative disorders, including stroke. In our study, male mice were chronically exposed to aggressive social stimuli before induction of a controlled, mild ischemic insult. Stressed mice expressed ≈70% less bcl-2 mRNA than unstressed mice after ischemia. In addition, social stress greatly exacerbated infarct in wild-type mice but not in transgenic mice that constitutively express increased neuronal bcl-2. Despite similar postischemic concentrations of corticosterone, the major stress hormone in mice, high corticosterone concentrations were significantly correlated with larger infarcts in wild-type mice but not bcl-2 transgenic mice. Thus, enhanced bcl-2 expression offsets the potentially deleterious consequences of high postischemic plasma corticosterone concentrations. Taken together, these data demonstrate that stressful prestroke social milieu strongly compromises an endogenous molecular mechanism of neuroprotection in injured brain and offer a new behavioral target for stroke therapy.

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About S. R. Zelenz 119 Articles
S.R. Zelenz has worked in education for 20 years. Working with students from all walks of life, cultures, races, and social diversity, Zelenz’s research in Educational Leadership led to finding a better way to approach learning for students with trauma histories. Many were juvenile offenders, gang members, diagnosed with varying behavioral disorders, or had family histories of violence, murder, or narcissistic parenting. This research could not be effectively accomplished without further understanding: how epigenetic trauma inheritance may be impacting these students; how brain development from trauma may be impacting their behavioral and emotional development; as well as deep understanding of psychology and its varying classifications for behavioral and personality disorders. The goal is to find solutions for changing the conversation and making a real difference for these students. She has also worked with nonprofits of varying focus areas for the last 25 years. Her undergraduate degree in Arts Administration and Music prepared her for managing nonprofits of any size as well as procuring funding so that they can achieve their goals. Pairing her nonprofit background with her education background, she has been able to make a difference for over 200 nonprofits worldwide, written curriculum for schools across the globe, and assisted many arts organizations through performance and management.