The brain responds to stress by activating the sympathetic nervous system in the “fight or flight” response. Studies have suggested that chronic stress leads to DNA damage and that this may contribute to ageing and various disorders. However, how stress contributes to DNA damage is still unclear. In this study, Hara and coworkers examined mice and human cell lines to determine mechanisms by which catecholamines may trigger DNA damage. They found that catecholamines acting through β2-adrenergic receptors and Gs-protein kinase A and β-arrestin signaling pathways, may trigger DNA damage and suppress p53 levels, leading to the accumulation of DNA damage. This has implications for therapeutic treatment, as the authors point out that chronic β-blocker treatment is associated with marked risk-reductions for prostate cancer, lung adenocarcinoma and Alzheimer’s disease in clinical studies.
Hara MR, Kovacs JJ, Whalen EJ, Rajagopal S, Strachan RT, Grant W, Towers AJ, Williams B, Lam CM, Xiao K, Shenoy SK, Gregory SG, Ahn S, Duckett DR, Lefkowitz RJ: A stress response pathway regulates DNA damage through β2-adrenoreceptors and β-arrestin-1. Nature 477: 349-353 (2011).

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