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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

A mechanism underlying the sexually dimorphic ACTH response to lipopolysaccharide in rats: sex steroid modulation of cytokine binding sites in the hypothalamus.

It is well established that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal responses to immune stressors are sexually dimorphic in rodents (females > males), but the underlying mechanism is still unclear. To investigate the mechanism, in this study we examined whether the sex steroid environment affects the following variables in male and female rats: (1) plasma levels of ACTH, interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6 and tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) after systemic lipopolysaccharide (LPS) administration; (2) static concentrations of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) in the mediobasal hypothalamus (MBH) and those of ACTH in the anterior pituitary (AP); and (3) the binding characteristics of IL-1beta, IL-6 and TNF-alpha in the MBH and AP. LPS-induced ACTH release was significantly higher in female than in male rats, and this sexual difference was abolished by performing gonadectomy in both sexes. Administration of physiological doses of testosterone and oestradiol to gonadectomized males and females, respectively, restored the altered ACTH responses to normal. Changes in the sex steroid milieu did not affect plasma cytokine responses to LPS, tissue contents of CRH, AVP and ACTH, or the IL-6 binding characteristics in the MBH and AP. However, the number of IL-1beta and TNF-alpha binding sites, but not their binding affinities, in the MBH showed significant changes according to altered sex hormone milieu, in the same direction as the LPS-induced ACTH response. These results suggest that the hypothalamic sensitivity to peripheral IL-1beta and TNF-alpha may be an important mechanism underlying the sexually dimorphic ACTH response to LPS in rats.[1]


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