Scientists from Russia and Slovakia examine the role of enzymes in stress regulation mechanisms

Scientists of South Ural State University are studying enzymes that can break down stress hormones. They are also finding a way to regulate the activity of these enzymes. It will help to cure diseases caused by stress. It is a joint research between SUSU and the Institute of Molecular Physiology and Genetics, and the Institute of Experimental Endocrinology of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (Slovakia, Bratislava). The primary results of the study were published in one of the most widespread scientific publications among stress experts the journal Stress.

Enzymes are complex protein molecules that act as catalysts in various biochemical reactions taking place in the body. They perform a significant role in the mechanisms of stress regulation, regulating the level of hormones.

“The lifetime of any hormone or neurotransmitter in the body is limited, as there are groups of enzymes that turn them into inactive reaction products. Hormones and stress mediators are no exception. We carry out a review of enzymes under stress, and the most interesting for us is how they behave in these conditions,” says the director of the Higher Medical and Biological School of SUSU, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor Vadim Tseilikman.

The scientists plan that obtained results will have application in the treatment of diseases caused by stress, in particular, post-traumatic stress disorder syndrome (PTSD). Post-traumatic stress disorder is the result of psychological trauma caused by traumatic psyche events. And the signs of the disorder comprise an elevated level of anxiety, involuntary painful memories of a traumatic situation, causing a state of stress. As a result, glucocorticoids are produced by the adrenal glands and are key hormones in the stress response. They have an anti-shock effect on the body and increasing their level in shock conditions and injuries is one of the mechanisms of adaptation of the body and survival in general. However, excessive activation of enzymes that neutralize stress hormones can adversely affect the body.

There are two types of interaction of enzymes with stress-induced hormones: in the first type, enzymes can irreversibly turn glucocorticoids into inactive forms, while in the second case they can temporarily neutralize them, and the excess hormones are stored “on-demand”, which is the way of optimal regulation. Thus, it becomes necessary to study this ratio of two types of enzymes that temporarily or permanently suppress stress hormones.

Currently, scientists are seeking a way to regulate the activity of these enzymes. Their inhibitors (substances that can inhibit or completely inhibit chemical and biochemical processes) will receive the status of pharmacological preparations. According to preliminary forecasts, such a method will be developed in the upcoming years. However, a mathematical model is already being created that will allow us to correlate the activity of two types of enzymes. Currently, it is arranged to analyze the effectiveness of this model with contemporary experimental studies.

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