Dexamethasone-induced immunosuppression: a rabbit model

Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2008 Apr 15;122(3-4):231-40. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2007.11.011. Epub 2007 Dec 5.


Rabbits are often used as animal models for experimental purposes; in many cases steroid-induced immunosuppression is necessary. The aim of this study was to characterise a model of immunosuppression in rabbits, based on changes in the lymphocyte subset distribution, changes in proliferative capacity of lymphocytes and activity of neutrophils 1, 3 and 7 days after the administration of 2mg/kg dexamethasone phosphate (DXP) three times at 6-h intervals. In peripheral blood, neutrophilia and lymphopenia together with eosinopenia, monocytopenia and basopenia in the absence of leukocytosis was detected. One day after DXP administration the absolute numbers of all lymphocyte subsets decreased in the blood, whereas in bone marrow, absolute numbers of all lymphocyte subsets increased significantly, except CD79alpha(+) cells that increased only in relative numbers. The effect of DXP on lymphocytes from the spleen, mesenteric and popliteal lymph nodes was less pronounced. In the thymus, DXP led to a marked reduction of the relative and absolute numbers of CD4(+)CD8(+) thymocytes. The proliferative capacity of lymphocytes after concanavalin A stimulation was lower in the peripheral blood and spleen only on day 1, no changes were detected in lymph nodes or in bone marrow. A marked increase in proliferative capacity was detected in the thymus. Spontaneous production of reactive oxygen metabolites by neutrophils was reduced on days 1 and 3 after DXP administration. The present results demonstrate clearly that this DXP application protocol is useful for the experimental induction of relatively short-lasting immunosuppression in rabbits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Immunosuppression Therapy*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / drug effects
  • Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • Rabbits
  • Random Allocation


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Dexamethasone