The immunological properties and hormonal metabolism in rodents are affected by physical and psychological stress more strongly in males than in females. To elucidate the mechanism and physiological significance of the sex difference in the susceptibility of animal to stresses, changes in the immunological system in plasma and intestine and hormonal status in plasma were compared among 8-week-old male and female ICR mice before and after fasting. During the fasting of animals, the expression of immunoglobulin A in intestinal mucosa, and cortisol, interleukin-10 and interferon-gamma in plasma increased. These changes occurred more apparently in males than in females. Under identical conditions, the plasma levels of testosterone decreased markedly with concomitant occurrence of apoptosis in the testis, while the plasma levels of estradiol decreased calmly, and no appreciable apoptosis occurred in the ovary. These results indicate that testosterone enhances the stress-induced modulation of the immune system by some mechanism that was antagonized by estradiol.
Keywords: estradiol; fasting; interferon-γ; interleukin-10; sex difference; testosterone.