Published:  2015-10-01

Progenitor cells are mobilized by acute psychological stress but not beta-adrenergic receptor agonist infusion

Authors:  Natalie E. Riddell, Victoria E. Burns, Graham R. Wallace, Kate M. Edwards, Mark Drayson, Laura S. Redwine, Suzi Hong, Jack C. Bui, Johannes C. Fischer, Paul J. Mills, Jos A. Bosch

Tags:  Adrenergic, Mobilization, Progenitor cells, Psychological stress, βAR-stimulation

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Stimuli that activate the sympathetic nervous system, such as acute psychological stress, rapidly invoke a robust mobilization of lymphocytes into the circulation. Experimental animal studies suggest that bone marrow-derived progenitor cells (PCs) also mobilize in response to sympathetic stimulation. Here we tested the effects of acute psychological stress and brief pharmacological β-adrenergic (βAR) stimulation on peripheral PC numbers in humans.
In two studies, we investigated PC mobilization in response to an acute speech task (n=26) and βAR-agonist (isoproterenol) infusion (n=20). A subset of 8 participants also underwent the infusion protocol with concomitant administration of the βAR-antagonist propranolol. Flow cytometry was used to enumerate lymphocyte subsets, total progenitor cells, total haematopoietic stem cells (HSC), early HSC (multi-lineage potential), late HSC (lineage committed), and endothelial PCs (EPCs).
Both psychological stress and βAR-agonist infusion caused the expected mobilization of total monocytes and lymphocytes and CD8+ T lymphocytes. Psychological stress also induced a modest, but significant, increase in total PCs, HSCs, and EPC numbers in peripheral blood. However, infusion of a βAR-agonist did not result in a significant change in circulating PCs.
PCs are rapidly mobilized by psychological stress via mechanisms independent of βAR-stimulation, although the findings do not exclude βAR-stimulation as a possible cofactor. Considering the clinical and physiological relevance, further research into the mechanisms involved in stress-induced PC mobilization seems warranted.