Adrenal cortex -- the next biological clock?

  Vol. 26 (3) 2005 Neuro endocrinology letters Journal Article   2005; 26(3): 193-195 PubMed PMID:  15990720    Citation  Keywords:  Adrenal Cortex:cytology, Animals, Biological Clocks:physiology, Cell Aging:physiology, Humans,.   

: It is well known that plasma levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a steroid hormone secreted by zona reticularis (ZR) of the adrenal cortex, reach the maximal values in the third decade of life and then gradually decline with age. Moreover, the DHEA deficiency is probably responsible for several functional disturbances connected with aging. It was also found that ZR reaches its definitive volume at puberty and undergoes selective atrophy during the aging. Thus, the decline of DHEA may be a simple consequence of ZR atrophy in aged subjects. A hypothesis presented here attempts to explain the mechanism of the age-related ZR atrophy and is based on the adrenal cortex cell kinetics. In the adrenal cortex the cell proliferation indices are lower when we pass from zona glomerulosa (ZG) to the inner zones and are the lowest in ZR. In contrast, the apoptotic index is the highest in ZR. It is suggested that adrenocortical cells renew from the progenitor cells located in ZG /zona fasculata boundary and /or in subcapsular layer. These cells migrate centripetally undergoing the subsequent steps of differention and consecutive divisions - and - if not die en route - reach the most central localization in ZR. In consequence, ZR includes the "oldest" adrenocortical cells which probably in majority reached the "Hayflick's number" and cannot divide. This results in the preponderance of apoptosis over proliferation leading to progressive ZR atrophy followed by a decline of secretion of ZR-derived steroid hormones.

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