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Splenic Denervation Blocks Leptin-Induced Enhancement of Humoral Immunity in Siberian Hamsters (Phodopus sungorus)

Demas G.E.
Department of Biology, Program in Neural Science, and Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior, Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind., USA Neuroendocrinology 2002;76:178–184 (DOI:10.1159/000064527)


Nontropical rodents have evolved adaptations to maximize winter survival, including alterations in reproduction, energy balance and immunity. Short-day-housed Siberian hamsters display reductions in body fat and decreases in humoral immunity compared with long-day hamsters. The hormone leptin, secreted by adipose tissue, varies in response to changes in body fat and has been implicated in photoperiodic changes in immunity. In addition, the metabolic effects of this hormone appear to be mediated by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). Very little is known, however, regarding the role of the SNS in regulating the effects of leptin on immunity. The goal of the present study was to examine the effects of splenic denervation on leptin-induced immune enhancement of short-day Siberian hamsters. Male hamsters were housed in long (LD 16:8) or short days (LD 8:16) for 10 weeks. Half of the animals in each photoperiod received surgical denervations of the spleen; the remaining animals received sham operations. In addition, animals in each group were implanted with osmotic minipumps containing either leptin or vehicle. Hamsters were then injected with keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH) and serum anti-KLH antibody production was assessed. Short-day hamsters displayed decreased humoral immunity in short versus long days; leptin attenuated the short-day decrease but did not enhance immunity of long-day hamsters. Furthermore, splenic denervation blocked the leptin-induced increase in immunity in short-day hamsters. Collectively, these data suggest that leptin plays an important role in regulating seasonal changes in humoral immunity of Siberian hamsters and the effects of leptin occur, at least in part, via changes in the SNS innervation of lymphoid tissue.


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