Sex steroid hormones enhance immune function in male and female Siberian hamsters.
Immune function is better in females than in males of many vertebrate species, and this dimorphism has been attributed to the presence of immunosuppressive androgens in males. We investigated the influence of sex steroid hormones on immune function in male and female Siberian hamsters. Previous studies indicated that immune function was impaired in male and female hamsters housed under short-day photoperiods when androgen and estrogen concentrations were virtually undetectable. In experiment 1, animals were gonadally intact, gonadectomized (gx), or gx with hormone replacement. Females exhibited the expected increase in antibody production over males, independent of hormone treatment condition, whereas male and female gx animals exhibited decreased lymphocyte proliferation to the T cell mitogen, phytohemagglutinin (PHA) compared with intact animals, and this effect was reversed in gx hamsters following testosterone and estradiol treatment, respectively. In experiment 2, testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and estradiol all enhanced cell-mediated immunity in vitro, suggesting that sex steroid hormones may be enhancing immune function through direct actions on immune cells. In experiment 3, an acute mitogen challenge of lipopolysaccharide significantly suppressed lymphocyte proliferation to PHA in intact males but not females, suggesting that males may be less reactive to a subsequent mitogenic challenge than females. Contrary to evidence in many species such as rats, mice, and humans, these data suggest that sex steroid hormones enhance immunity in both male and female Siberian hamsters.
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