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Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2001 Jun;280(6):R1799-805.

Social stress induces glucocorticoid resistance in macrophages.

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Neuroscience Graduate Studies Program, The Ohio State University Health Sciences Center, Columbus, Ohio 43218, USA.


Stress-induced levels of plasma glucocorticoid hormones are known to modulate leukocyte function. These experiments examined the effects of a social stressor on the responsiveness of peripheral immune cells. Male mice experienced six evening cycles of social disruption (SDR), in which an aggressive male intruder was placed into their home cage for 2 h. Although circulating corticosterone was elevated in SDR mice, they had enlarged spleens and increased numbers of splenic leukocytes. Splenocytes from SDR and control mice were cultured with lipopolysaccharide and corticosterone. Cells from SDR mice exhibited decreased sensitivity to the antiproliferative effects of corticosterone, suggesting that the peripheral immune cells were resistant to glucocorticoids. In addition, SDR cells produced more interleukin (IL)-6. To determine which cell population was affected, we used antibody-labeled magnetic beads to deplete splenocyte suspensions of B cells or macrophages. Depletion of macrophages from SDR cultures, but not depletion of B cells, abolished both the corticosterone resistance and enhanced IL-6 secretion. These findings demonstrate that a psychosocial stressor induced glucocorticoid resistance in mouse splenic macrophages.

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