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Am J Physiol. 1999 Jan;276(1 Pt 2):R97-R102.

Influence of photoperiod on immune cell functions in the male Siberian hamster.

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Center for Perinatal Biology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda, California 92350, USA.


The present study tested the hypothesis that immune cell function is influenced by ambient photoperiod. The male Siberian hamster served as the experimental model because day length regulates a variety of seasonal adaptations in physiology. Adult hamsters were in long days (16 h of light daily), which sustains gonadal function, or transferred to short days (8 h) for >4 wk to induce testes regression. Blood was drawn from the ocular sinus or splenocytes obtained to assess basal indexes of immune cell function. In hamsters in short days, natural killer cell cytolytic capacity, as well as spontaneous blastogenesis in both whole blood and isolated lymphocytes, were enhanced compared with that in hamsters in long days. By contrast, phagocytosis and oxidative burst activity by both granulocytes and monocytes were suppressed in hamsters by exposure to short days versus long days. Selective changes in immune cell function coincided with short-day-induced gonadal atrophy. These findings raise the hypothesis that photoperiod regulation of physiological adaptations, including distinct immune cell functions, may help individuals anticipate seasonal challenges posed by opportunistic diseases or climate to facilitate survival.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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