The case for a gene-environment interaction model of stress-induced hypertension is detailed in this paper. We hypothesize that repeated exposure to stress in combination with an environmentally and/or genetically mediated susceptibility may lead to the development of essential hypertension. Previously, we reviewed the evidence for a genetic influence on the two major intermediate phenotypes of our model: cardiovascular reactivity to psychological stress and stress-induced sodium retention, representing the cardiovascular and renal stress response, respectively. Here we first describe how genes underlying the physiological systems mediating the stress response of heart, vasculature, and kidney (i.e., the sympathetic nervous system, renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system and sodium reabsorption, and the endothelial system) may increase vulnerability to stress and confer susceptibility to development of essential hypertension. Next, we extend our model and review genes underlying three additional systems that may mediate the influence of stress on the development of essential hypertension: the parasympathetic nervous system, the serotonergic system, and the hypothamamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. The elucidation of our gene-environment interaction model of stress-induced essential hypertension will improve the understanding of the contribution of stress to the development of essential hypertension. This knowledge may lead to more effective primary and secondary prevention programs involving lifestyle interventions in which the role of stress, both acute and chronic, will be taken into account, particularly for individuals at increased genetic risk of essential hypertension.
- Essential hypertension
- Gene-environment interaction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine