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J Neuroimmunol. 1991 Dec;35(1-3):53-64.

Sex and strain differences in the circadian rhythm fluctuation of endocrine and immune function in the rat: implications for rodent models of autoimmune disease.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, College of Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus 43210.


This study compares 24-h basal patterns of corticosterone and immunoreactivity for Lewis and Fischer (F344) strain rats. Significant differences in the circadian rhythm of plasma corticosterone were found across sex and strain. Male Lewis rats exhibited significantly lower 24-h corticosterone levels relative to female Lewis and male F344 rats. In addition, male Lewis rats were found to have higher mononuclear cell counts than female Lewis or male F344 rats, particularly in the peripheral blood and spleen compartments. Levels of CD4-bearing lymphocytes in blood, lymph node, and spleen were found to be higher in Lewis rats compared to the F344 strain over a 24-h period. In general, percentages of CD8- and major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class II-bearing lymphocytes were shown to vary over 24 h in all compartments across strains. Given that the Lewis rat has low basal levels of circulating corticosterone, and comparatively higher numbers of CD4-bearing lymphocytes, these factors may play a causative role in the known susceptibility of this strain to many experimental models of autoimmune disease.

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