To clarify the involvement of pregnancy in the response of the neuroendocrine-immune system to stress, we examined splenic natural killer cell activity (NKCA) and its relevant central and blood parameters in female virgin and pregnant rats (10 to 11 days gestation) exposed to forced water-immersion stress with durations of 90 min and 180 min. Decreases in splenic NKCA, corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) in the hypothalamus, and increases in progesterone (P), β-endorphin (β EP), and dopamine (DA) metabolic ratios in the frontal cortex and nucleus accumbens produced by stress were recognized in the virgin rats, but not in the pregnant rats. Pregnancy reduced splenic NKCA in rats without stress, but elevated it in the rats exposed to stress with a duration of 180 min. These findings suggest inhibitory effects of pregnancy on stress-induced immunosuppression and neuroendocrine changes, thereby promoting homeostasis in the neuroendocrine-immune system against stress. Such enhanced homeostasis associated with pregnancy seemed to be mediated by the activation of placental P and placental or pituitary β EP in cooperation with mesocortical and mesolimbic DA systems and hypothalamic CRH.
- corticotropin releasing hormone
- natural killer cell activity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy
- Clinical Neurology