Trait-like immunological and hematological measures in female rhesus across varied environmental conditions

Am J Primatol. 1999;48(3):197-223. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2345(1999)48:3<197::AID-AJP3>3.0.CO;2-Y.


In this 2-year longitudinal study, 45 2-year-old female rhesus were observed as they were captured and removed from a free-ranging setting (Phase I), single caged for 1 year (Phase II), and housed in small, stable social groups for an additional year (Phase III). During the study, eight blood samples were taken, and hematological, immunological, and hormonal variables were assayed to determine whether 1) any of the measures would exhibit trait-like, inter-individual longitudinal stability, despite fluctuations in population means induced by Phases I, II, and III; 2) plasma concentrations of cortisol, prolactin, and norepinephrine would be lowest in Phase III, and elevated during the periods of acute and chronic stress associated with Phases I and II; and 3) there would be any evidence of immunosuppression associated with Phases I and II. The results suggest that the majority of hematological/immunological variables were trait-like throughout the study in contrast to plasma cortisol, prolactin, and norepinephrine concentrations. Thus, red blood cells, hemoglobin, hematocrit, platelets, mean corpuscular volume and hemoglobin, as well as white blood cells, the absolute number of CD4+ (T-helper/inducer) cells, the absolute number of CD8+ (T-suppressor/cytotoxic) cells, total T cells (CD2+%), total B cells (CD20+%), and the ratio of CD4+/CD8+ cells were trait-like. The hematological measures were changed dramatically by capture and the subsequent single caging, with most not recovering to presumed baselines until after 12-28 weeks. The immune measures were depressed at capture (excepting B cells), and during 7 months of single caging failed to return to normal levels associated with social housing. We thus conclude that single housing can produce significant, long-term features of immunosuppression. Capture produced significant increases in plasma cortisol, prolactin, and norepinephrine concentrations. Long periods of single caging produced significant increases in plasma prolactin concentrations, indicative of stress-induced anxiety, and may also have been associated with down-regulation of plasma norepinephrine and cortisol concentrations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Environment
  • Erythrocyte Count
  • Female
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Macaca mulatta / blood*
  • Macaca mulatta / immunology*
  • Norepinephrine / blood
  • Platelet Count
  • Prolactin / blood
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Isolation
  • Stress, Psychological
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Prolactin
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Norepinephrine