A dose of experimental hormesis: When mild stress protects and improves animal performance

Raymond Berry, III and Giancarlo López-Martínez


The adaptive response characterized by a biphasic curve is known as hormesis. In a hormesis framework, exposure to low doses leads to protective and beneficial responses while exposures to high doses are damaging and detrimental. Comparative physiologists have studied hormesis for over a century, but our understanding of hormesis is fragmented due to rifts in consensus and taxonomic-specific terminology. Hormesis has been and is currently known by multiple names; preconditioning, conditioning, pretreatment, cross tolerance, adaptive homeostasis, and rapid stress hardening (mostly low temperature: rapid cold hardening). These are the most common names used to describe adaptive stress responses in animals. These responses are mechanistically similar, while having stress-specific responses, but they all can fall under the umbrella of hormesis. Here we review how hormesis studies have revealed animal performance benefits in response to changes in oxygen, temperature, ionizing radiation, heavy metals, pesticides, dehydration, gravity, and crowding. And how almost universally, hormetic responses are characterized by increases in performance that include either increases in reproduction, longevity, or both. And while the field can benefit from additional mechanistic work, we know that many of these responses are rooted in increases of antioxidants and oxidative stress protective mechanisms; including heat shock proteins. There is a clear, yet not fully elucidated, overlap between hormesis and the preparation for oxidative stress theory; which predicts part of the responses associated with hormesis. We discuss this, and the need for additional work into animal hormetic effects particularly focusing on the cost of hormesis.

Continue Reading at the National Center for Biotechnology Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s