Contribution of sex and genetics to neuroendocrine adaptation to stress in mice.


Male and female C57BL/6 (B6) and DBA/2 (D2) mice were subjected to either acute or 5 days of repeated restraint in ventilated, 50 ml centrifuge tubes. Control animals were not disturbed. The acute restraint animals were killed immediately following 15, 30 or 60 min of restraint and blood collected for corticosterone (CORT) analysis. The results of the acute restraint procedure revealed a strain difference in time to peak CORT in plasma with D2 animals showing an earlier peak. The males of both strains evinced similar maximum response and similar to B6 females; however, the D2 females showed a 2-fold greater CORT response than did the B6 females. Repeated restraint consisted of 5 days of 12 h in the tubes. At the end of 5 days, the animals were weighted and adrenalectomized in preparation for determination of brain corticosteroid receptors. Upon sacrifice, brains, thymus, adrenals and blood were harvested, the last for corticosteroid binding globulin (CBG). Five days of repeated restraint produced body weight loss in both strains, with B6s less affected than D2s. Repeated restraint reduced the mass of the adrenals in the B6s only. Restraint also reduced the mass of the thymus in both strains and sexes, but to a greater extent in the B6s. Plasma CBG densities were also sensitive to restraint, but only in females, showing a restraint-related decrease. Repeated restraint had no effect on hippocampal glucocorticoid or mineralocorticoid receptors; however for the latter, we observed significant strain and sex effects with D2 having higher Bmax than B6 and females having higher Bmax than males. In the pituitary, glucocorticoid receptors (GR) were reduced by repeated restraint in males, but increased in females, especially in the B6. These findings lend preliminary evidence for involvement of sex and genetics as sources of individual differences in bioadaptation to stress.


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