Control of Epinephrine Synthesis by the Pituitary and Adrenal Cortex: Possible Role in the Pathophysiology of Chronic Stress

  • Richard J. Wurtman


It has been recognized for some time that psychologic states produced by “stress” and characterized by anxiety are frequently associated with hypersecretion of the adrenomedullary and the adrenocortical hormones [1, 2]. Soon after the normal individual is confronted with natural or experimental situations that he finds stressful, his adrenal glands respond by releasing large amounts of both epinephrine and hydrocortisone. These two hormones and their metabolites have also been found in supranormal amounts in the urine of patients with psychiatric disorders [1, 3], especially those characterized by anxiety. Circulating epinephrine, released from the adrenal gland or administered by the physician, can produce many of the somatic findings associated with anxiety states (i.e., tachycardia, widened pulse pressure, peripheral vasoconstriction). Hydrocortisone and epinephrine can both produce changes in the nature and intensity of the affect. Glucocorticoids characteristically induce euphoria, while epinephrine administration leads to feelings of anxiety in many subjects. These and other observations have led to the widespread belief that the adrenal hormones may participate in the somatic, and perhaps also the psychic, responses to acute and chronic stress.


Adrenal Gland Adrenal Cortex Adrenal Medulla Methyl Transferase Adrenal Weight 
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© Plenum Press 1967

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  • Richard J. Wurtman

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