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Transl Psychiatry. 2013 Jul 9;3:e280. doi: 10.1038/tp.2013.54.

CD4⁺ but not CD8⁺ T cells revert the impaired emotional behavior of immunocompromised RAG-1-deficient mice.

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Centre for Biochemical Pharmacology, The William Harvey Research Institute, Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.


An imbalanced immune system has long been known to influence a variety of mood disorders including anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorders and depression. In this study, we sought to model the impact of an immunocompromised state on these emotional behaviors using RAG-1⁻/⁻ mice, which lack T and B cells. We also investigated the relative contribution of CD4⁺ or CD8⁺ T cells to these manifestations using RAG-1⁻/⁻/OT-II and RAG-1⁻/⁻/OT-I transgenic mice, respectively. Our results show that RAG-1⁻/⁻ mice present a significant increase in digging and marble-burying activities compared with wild-type mice. Surprisingly, these anxiety-like behaviors were significantly reverted in RAG-1⁻/⁻/OT-II but not RAG-1⁻/⁻/OT-I transgenic mice. Immunodepletion experiments with anti-CD4 or anti-CD8 in C57/BL6 mice or repopulation studies in RAG-1⁻/⁻ mice did not reproduce these findings. Microarray analysis of the brain of RAG-1⁻/⁻ and RAG-1⁻/⁻/OT-II mice revealed a significantly different gene fingerprint, with the latter being more similar to wild-type mice than the former. Further analysis revealed nine main signaling pathways as being significantly modulated in RAG-1⁻/⁻ compared with wild-type mice. Taken together, these results suggest that life-long rather than transient immunodeficient conditions influence the emotional behaviors in mice. Most interestingly, these effects seem to correlate with a specific absence of CD4⁺ rather than CD8⁺ T cells. Validation of these findings in man might provide new clues on the mechanism by which early life immune modulation might impact mood response in adults and provide a further link between immune and emotional well-being.

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