Chronic psychological stress is associated with accelerated aging, but the underlying biological mechanisms are not known. Prolonged elevations of the stress hormone cortisol is suspected to play a critical role. Through its actions, cortisol may potentially induce oxidatively generated damage to cellular constituents such as DNA and RNA, a phenomenon which has been implicated in aging processes. We investigated the relationship between 24 h excretion of urinary cortisol and markers of oxidatively generated DNA and RNA damage, 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2′-deoxyguanosine and 8-oxo-7,8-dihydroguanosine, in a sample of 220 elderly men and women (age 65 - 83 years). We found a robust association between the excretion of cortisol and the oxidation markers (R2 = 0.15, P<0.001 for both markers). Individuals in the highest quartile of cortisol excretion had a 57% and 61% higher median excretion of the DNA and RNA oxidation marker, respectively, than individuals in the lowest quartile. The finding adds support to the hypothesis that cortisol-induced damage to DNA/RNA is an explanatory factor in the complex relation between stress, aging and disease.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)