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J Neuroimmunol. 2005 May;162(1-2):81-8.

Pregnancy and social stress in female rats: influences on blood leukocytes and corticosterone concentrations.

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  • 1Department of Animal Physiology, University of Bayreuth, Universit√§tsstrasse 30, D-95440 Bayreuth, Germany.


The consequences of pregnancy and social stress on blood immune cells and on plasma corticosterone concentrations were assessed in Long Evans rats. Normal pregnancy in control females was characterized by a progressive increase in corticosterone concentration and increasing numbers of granulocytes. In contrast, CD4 T, CD8 T, and B cell numbers as well as the proliferative response of lymphocytes decreased as pregnancy progressed. Stress was induced in pregnant females by social confrontation for 2 h daily with a female resident opponent over a period of 2 months. Corticosterone concentrations were substantially higher in pregnant stressed than in pregnant control rats. Furthermore, the numbers of monocytes, NK and B cells were lower in stressed females, and there was a strong trend towards suppressed lymphocyte proliferation. Interestingly, pregnant females did not show granulocytosis in response to the stressor. In sum, the social stress paradigm in females appears to be a good model for the investigation of the interactions between stress, pregnancy and the immune system. It also provides an excellent platform for studies on prenatal stress under relatively naturalistic conditions.

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