Sex Differences in Susceptibility to Viral Infection of the Central Nervous System

J Neuroimmunol. 1996 Jun;67(1):31-9. doi: 10.1016/0165-5728(96)00022-7.


We have characterized striking differences in recovery of male and female BALB/c and BALB/c-H-2dm2 (dm2) mice from an experimental neurotropic viral infection of the central nervous system (CNS). Following intranasal inoculation of vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), assays of tissue homogenates from female mice produced lower viral titers. There was also a significant reduction in the spread of virus from the rostral to caudal end of the brain in female mice. Enhanced recovery by female mice of both strains in response to this viral insult correlates with increased levels of Nitric Oxide Synthase (NOS) types I, II, and III expression, an increased prevalence of reactive astrocytes, earlier and enhanced levels of expression of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) class II molecules on astrocytes, endothelial and microglial cells, and increased T cell infiltration in the female BALB/c mouse. Taken together, these findings document sexual dimorphism in CNS immunity, and may provide an understanding of some of the mechanisms underlying many sex-biased diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Astrocytes / immunology
  • Brain / enzymology
  • Brain / immunology
  • Brain / virology
  • CHO Cells / virology
  • Cricetinae
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Encephalitis, Viral / immunology
  • Encephalitis, Viral / virology*
  • Female
  • Histocompatibility Antigens / immunology
  • Histocompatibility Antigens / metabolism
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / immunology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Rhabdoviridae Infections* / immunology
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Specific Pathogen-Free Organisms
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Vesicular stomatitis Indiana virus* / immunology


  • Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase