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J Neuroimmunol. 2007 Apr;185(1-2):95-102. Epub 2007 Mar 9.

Maternal social stress during pregnancy alters immune function and immune cell numbers in adult male Long-Evans rat offspring during stressful life-events.

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  • 1Department of Animal Physiology, University of Bayreuth, Universitätsstrasse 30, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany.


The impact of social confrontations on distribution and function of blood immune cells in adult male rat offspring from stressed and non-stressed pregnancies was studied. Repeated 2 h resident-intruder confrontations were performed on ten consecutive days using a protective cage. Prenatally stressed intruder males (PSI) had a generally lower number of neutrophiles, monocytes, T and NK cells and reduced lymphocyte proliferation in whole blood cultures than prenatally non-stressed control intruders (PCI). Differences also existed in the temporal dynamics of immunological changes. On confrontation day 1, stress-induced reductions in lymphocyte and monocyte numbers but increased granulocyte counts were observed in both groups. However, only PCI showed a partial recovery of T cell and monocyte numbers on confrontation day 10 and a full restoration in all immune cell numbers 5 days post-confrontation. Thus, the immunological response to a psychosocial stressor in adult rats can be modified by the mothers' exposure to stress during pregnancy.

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