Social stress in male mice impairs long-term antiviral immunity selectively in wounded subjects

J. de Groot, W.J.A. Boersma, J.W. Scholten, J.M. Koolhaas

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    An important property of the antiviral immune response is its time-dependent character. Beginning with a few antigen-specific cells upon infection, it evolves to a stage where there is an abundance of antigen-specific cells and antibodies that are needed to clear the pathogen, and ends with circulating antibodies and a population of virus-specific memory cells to protect the animal from reinfection. Short-term effects of stress on the immune system have been investigated extensively, showing that stress acutely changes many aspects of immunity. However, relatively little is known about the consequences of stress for the quality and quantity of long-term immunological memory. In the present study, we have investigated the effect of social stress, applied in mice at Days 1, 2 and 3 after inoculation with a herpes virus, on long-term antibody and memory cytokine responses to the virus. Male mice were subjected to three 5-min confrontations with an aggressive conspecific. Approximately half of the mice was wounded by bites of the aggressor during this stress procedure, and these mice were analyzed separately from nonwounded mice. It appeared that wounded mice showed suppressed protective antibody responses and impaired memory for virus-specific IL-4 and IL-10 production, whereas mice that were not wounded showed intact long-term immune responses and memory. It is concluded that the combination of wounds and the social stress of repeated confrontations is associated with impaired protective immunity as a consequence of suppressed antibody levels and impairment of some aspects of antiviral immunological memory.
    Original languageUndefined/Unknown
    Pages (from-to)277-285
    JournalPhysiology and Behavior
    Publication statusPublished - 2002

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