these peptides may be involved in enhancing the resistance to superficial tissue damage gained during the social confrontation. In this chapter, I avoided discussing the involvement of adrenal glucocorticoids within the context of stress-induced immunomodulation. The role of glucocorticoids in immunoregulation is complex and certainly needs further elucidation. However, it should be noted that ACTH, as part of the POMC precursor, stimulates the adrenal cortex to secrete glucocorticoids. These hormones are considered to be generally immunosuppressive. Thus, part of the POMC precursor can induce immunoinhibitory signals (glucocorticoids) to terminate its own direct immunoenhancing properties. This view is in line with current thoughts of the role of glucocorticoids in the defense to stress as formulated by Munck, Guyer, and Holbrook ( 1984), stating that glucocorticoids do not protect against the source of stress itself, but rather against the body's normal reaction to stress, preventing those reactions from overshooting and themselves threatening homeostasis.
I thank Dr. C Heijnen for her technical assistance in performing some of the immunological assays, Rob Binnekade for his skillful help in performing the in vivo experiments, and Janet Edmond ( Fishberg Research Center, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York) and Henk Nordsiek for reproducing the figures. This study was supported by the Royal Dutch Academy for Sciences and Arts.
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