The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (a major component of the stress system) and the immune system contribute to the maintenance of homeostasis at rest and during stress. Because of their essential roles for the survival of self and species, the activities of these systems have evolutionarily developed in parallel and are intertwined at many levels. In this issue of the JCI, Ezzat et al. demonstrate that Ikaros, a differentiation factor of leukocyte lineage, also influences the maturation of the fetal pituitary corticotroph and, hence, the secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone before and after birth (see the related article beginning on page 1021). These results indicate that Ikaros is an ontogenetic and phylogenetic integrator of the stress and immune systems and that abnormalities in its function may produce endocrine and/or immune pathologies.
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