Send to

Choose Destination
Brain Behav Immun. 2007 Nov;21(8):1096-108. Epub 2007 Aug 28.

Winter day lengths enhance T lymphocyte phenotypes, inhibit cytokine responses, and attenuate behavioral symptoms of infection in laboratory rats.

Author information

Department of Psychology, Institute for Mind and Biology, University of Chicago, 940 E. 57th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


Annual variations in day length (photoperiod) trigger changes in the immune and reproductive system of seasonally-breeding animals. The purpose of this study was to determine whether photoperiodic changes in immunity depend on concurrent photoperiodic responses in the reproductive system, or whether immunological responses to photoperiod occur independent of reproductive responses. Here we report photoperiodic changes in enumerative, functional, and behavioral aspects of the immune system, and in immunomodulatory glucocorticoid secretion, in reproductively non-photoperiodic Wistar rats. T-cell numbers (CD3+, CD8+, CD8+CD25+, CD4+CD25+) were higher in the blood of rats housed in short as opposed to long-day lengths for 10 weeks. Following a simulated bacterial infection (Escherichia coli LPS; 125 microg/kg) the severity of several acute-phase sickness behaviors (anorexia, cachexia, neophobia, and social withdrawal) were attenuated in short days. LPS-stimulated IL-1beta and IL-6 production were comparable between photoperiods, but plasma TNFalpha was higher in long-day relative to short-day rats. In addition, corticosterone concentrations were higher in short-day relative to long-day rats. The data are consistent with the hypothesis that photoperiodic regulation of the immune system can occur entirely independently of photoperiodic regulation of the reproductive system. In the absence of concurrent reproductive responses, short days increase the numbers of leukocytes capable of immunosurveillance and inhibition of inflammatory responses, increase proinflammatory cytokine production, increase immunomodulatory glucocorticoid secretion, and ultimately attenuate behavioral responses to infection. Seasonal changes in the host immune system, endocrine system, and behavior may contribute to the seasonal variability in disease outcomes, even in reproductively non-photoperiodic mammals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center