Fasting suppresses T cell-mediated immunity in female Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus)

Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol. 2010 Jan;155(1):25-33. doi: 10.1016/j.cbpa.2009.09.003. Epub 2009 Sep 11.


Immune defense is important for organisms' survival and fitness. Small mammals in temperate zone often face seasonal food shortages. Generally fasting can suppress immune function in laboratory rodents and little information is available for wild rodents. The present study tested the hypothesis that Mongolian gerbils (Meriones unguiculatus) could inhibit T cell-mediated immunity to adapt to acute fasting. Forty-two females were divided into the fed and fasted groups, in which the latter was deprived of food for 3days. After 66h fasting, half of the gerbils in each group were injected with phosphate buffered saline or phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) solution. T cell-mediated immunity assessed by PHA response was suppressed in the fasted gerbils compared with the fed gerbils. The fasted gerbils had lower body fat mass, wet and dry thymus mass, dry spleen mass, white blood cells, serum leptin and blood glucose concentrations, but higher corticosterone concentrations than those of the controls. Moreover, PHA response was positively correlated with body fat mass and serum leptin levels in the immunochallenged groups. Taken together, acute fasting leads to immunosuppression, which might be caused by low body fat mass and low serum leptin concentrations in female Mongolian gerbils.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Eating / physiology
  • Fasting / blood
  • Fasting / physiology*
  • Female
  • Gerbillinae / blood
  • Gerbillinae / immunology*
  • Gerbillinae / physiology*
  • Immunity, Cellular / physiology*
  • Leptin / blood
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Organ Size / physiology
  • Random Allocation
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Thymus Gland / anatomy & histology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Leptin
  • Corticosterone