Diana Leslie Cornejo Rose Hills
Understanding Neuroendocrine Mechanisms Underlying the Impact of Stress on Pregnancy
Chronic stress has been shown to have lasting and damaging effects on an individuals physical and mental health. One of the avenues of life that stress can impact significantly is female fertility and reproductive success. Prenatal stress leads to lower birth weights of fetuses, decreased success rate of full-term pregnancies, and delayed development. Although studies have established the role in which cortisol, the main hormone released during stress, is secreted by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and plays an integral role in the neuroendocrine stress response, little is known regarding how stress hormones interact with the neural pathways in the hypothalamus to negatively influence pregnancy outcomes. In the hypothalamus, RFamide-related peptide-3 (RFRP-3), inhibits gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) neurons, providing a potential mechanistic link between stress and fertility outcomes. Through the expansion of preliminary findings of past projects in the lab, our focus is to uncover how chronic stress suppresses progesterone and hinders pregnancy success. Specifically, the question I am asking is whether RFRP-3 neurons mediate the effects of stress on pregnancy outcomes by regulating prolactin secretion; prolactin is critical for progesterone regulation, and prolactin levels predict miscarriage in humans. Over the summer, I will analyze the histology of the different zones of the placentae, along with quantifying gene expression data in an effort to identify specific genes that are mediating the impact of stress on the developing fetus. The implications of my research will aid in identifying clinical targets to mitigate the impact of stress on pregnancy outcomes.