ISSN 1022-7954, Russian Journal of Genetics, 2007, Vol. 43, No. 10, pp. 1082–1092. © Pleiades Publishing, Inc., 2007.
Original Russian Text © E.V. Daev, 2007, published in Genetika, 2007, Vol. 43, No. 10, pp. 1299–1310.
Investigation of the effect of pheromonal signals on
cytogenetic parameters in the house mouse has shown
that some stressors induce immunosuppression and
reduce reproduction in the recipients. The peroxidation
of lipids and noradrenaline concentration in nervous
terminals are changed, while the level of chromosome
aberrations in bone marow cells and spermatocytes I
and II and the frequency of abnormal sperm increase.
Thus, stress effect of some pheromonal stimuli destabi-
lizes the operation of the genetic machinery in dividing
germline and somatic cells of the recipient animals.
These results support the physiological hypothesis of
mutation and demonstrate the operation of the chemo-
chemical mechanism of genome stability regulation,
which may play an important role in natural popula-
tions, at least in the house mouse.
EVOLUTION OF THE STRESS CONCEPT
More than seven decades have elapsed since the
appearance of terms
in scientiﬁc lit-
erature , but the problem of “stress” remains contro-
versial and unclear. Although stress is one of the basic
responses of the highly organized living matter that is
essential for evolution, our understanding of its devel-
opment and direct causes is very poor. The interpreta-
tion of this scientiﬁc concept is ambiguous. Thus, the
relevance of studying mechanisms underlying stress
response at different levels is obvious. “Only one state-
ment is accepted by researchers without reservations:
stress is a hard nut to crack. No doubt, this is a good rea-
son for conducting studies in that ﬁeld” .
“Stress” on the Organismal Level
For many years, Hans Selye himself promoted the
development of the concept of stress or “general adap-
tation syndrome” [1, 3–6]. It was presumed that the
effect of some environmental factors (stressors) induce
in the “living matter” nonspeciﬁc tension, which mani-
fests as actual morphological changes in various
organs, particularly, in endocrine glands controlled by
the frontal lobe of the hypophysis . For Selye, the
“living matter” was highly organized multicellular
organisms with a complex neuroendocrinal system,
because tension of the hypothalamus–hypophysis–
adrenocortical system (HHAS) was, according to him,
a distinguishing feature of any stress.
According to Selye, the stress syndrome developed
in three stages: the appearance of initial acute symptoms
(stage of anxiety), their subsequent disappearance
(stage of resistance), and, ﬁnally, damage of the organ-
ism accompanied by a complete loss of resistance [1, 3, 6].
The factors inducing stress response (stressors) are of
different nature, but the response to them have several
common typical features (Fig. 1). These are hypertro-
phy of the adrenal cortex, stomach ulcers “involution”
of the thymus–lymphoid apparatus, lymphopenia,
repression of functions of the thyroid gland, suppres-
sion of the gonadotropin production and of the repro-
duction in mammals .
The development of science led Selye to understand
that each stressor, apart from the nonspeciﬁc (stressful)
action, also produces a speciﬁc effect on the recipient
organism. Interacting, these two components of stress
can signiﬁcantly affect one another . However,
Selye’s views were somewhat controversial: in his
increasingly broad generalizations, he started equating
stress with life in general, stating that “stress is life and
life is stress” (cited from ). In our opinion, this view-
point led to unjustiﬁed broadening of the term
and the Physiological Hypothesis of Mutation
E. V. Daev
Department of Genetics and Breeding, St. Petersburg State University, 199034 Russia
fax: (812)328-15-90; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Received May 3, 2007
—The review considers stress as a physiological state of the organism, affecting the cellular, genomic,
and population levels. Literature data and cytogenetic studies by the author support basic statements of the
physiological hypothesis of mutation, which was advanced as early as in the 1940s. Studies of pheromonal
effects in germline and somatic cells of the house mouse demonstrated the role of olfactory stressors in gener-
ating genetic variation in microevolutionary changes.