Hepatic expression patterns in psychosocially high-stressed pigs suggest mechanisms following allostatic principles

M Oster, E Murani, S Ponsuksili, RB D'Eath, SP Turner, G Evans, L Thoelking, E Kurt, R Klont, A Foury, P Mormede, K Wimmers

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7 Citations (Scopus)
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Psychosocial challenges are known to introduce cellular and humoral adaptations in various tissues and organs, including parts of the sympatho-adrenal-medullary system and hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis as well as other peripheral tissue being responsive to cortisol and catecholamines. The liver is of particular interest given its vital roles in maintaining homeostasis and health as well as regulating nutrient utilization and overall metabolism. We aimed to evaluate whether and howresponse to psychosocial stress is reflected by physiological molecular pathways in liver tissue. A pig mixing experiment was conducted to induce psychosocial stress culminating in skin lesions which reflect the involvement in aggressive behavior and fighting. At 27 weeks of age, animals prone to psychosocially low- and high-stress were assigned to mixing groups. Skin lesions were counted before mixing and after slaughter on the carcass. Individual liver samples (n = 12) were taken. The isolated RNA was hybridized on Affymetrix GeneChip porcine Genome Arrays. Relative changes of mRNA abundances were estimated via variance analyses. Molecular routes related to tRNA charging, urea cycle, acute phase response, galactose utilization, and steroid receptor signaling were found to be increased in psychosocially high-stressed animals,whereas catecholamine degradation and cholesterol biosynthesiswere found to be decreased. In particular, psychosocially high-stressed animals show decreased expression of catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) which has been linked to molecular mechanisms regulating aggressiveness and stress response. The expression patterns of high-stressed animals revealed metabolic alterations of key genes related to energy-mobilizing processes at the expense of energy consuming processes. Thus, the coping following psychosocial challenges involves transcriptional alterations in liver tissue which may be summarized with reference to the concept of allostasis, a strategy which is critical for survival. © 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)159 - 165
Number of pages7
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Publication statusPrint publication - 2014

Bibliographical note



  • Allostasis
  • Liver
  • Microarray
  • Mixing
  • Pig
  • Psychosocial stress


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