The effect of chronic stress on behaviors, inflammation and lymphocyte subtypes in male and female rats

Cai Zhang, Baiping Liu, Jodi Pawluski, Harry W M Steinbusch, U Kirthana Kunikullaya, Cai Song*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Excessively released proinflammatory mediators from activated macrophages and lymphocytes may contribute to the etiology of depression. However, the relationship between lymphocytes and depression is not fully understood. Although women have higher depression risk than men, sex/gender differences in psychoneuroimmunological mechanisms are still unclear. To explore these two questions, chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS) was used to evaluate the changes in behaviors, inflammation and lymphocyte subtypes in adult male and female Wistar rats. Results show that CUMS increased anhedonia and anxiety-like behaviors, along with increased serum corticosterone, hippocampal pro-inflammatory factors, CD11b, IFN-γ, IL-6 and IL-17, but decreased CD4, CD25, CD4/CD8 ratio, GFAP, 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) and NE concentrations, regardless of sex. There was no positive correlation between sucrose preference and blood CD4/CD8 ratio, but a positive correlation between sucrose preference and spleen CD25, sucrose preference and neurotransmitters (NE and 5-HT), spleen CD25 and serum TGF-β1/IL-6 ratio were found, regardless of sex. Females presented higher basal locomotion, blood CD4, CD4/CD8 ratio, serum corticosteroid and IL-6 concentrations, but lower hippocampal norepinephrine (NE) than males. Although CUMS didn't induce significant sex differences, females presented more changes in CD4 and CD8 lymphocytes than male rats. CUMS caused abnormalities in corticosteroid, lymphocytes, cytokines and neurotransmitters, which might be the precursors for inducing depression-like behaviors in both sexes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114220
Number of pages14
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Early online date19 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

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