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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 1994

Influence of experimentally induced endogenous production of cortisol on the immune capacity in swine



Field studies have suggested that 'stressors', such as transportation and mixing, might interfere with the immune competence of pigs. Therefore, an experimental model was established to study the influence of elevated concentrations of circulating cortisol on the immune capacity in swine. Three experimental groups, with six pigs in each, were immunized twice, 4 weeks apart, with Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae antigen. Endogenous production of cortisol was induced by intramuscular injection of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) twice daily. One group received ACTH during the week before and after the second immunization, one group during the week after the second immunization only, while one group served as untreated controls.The treatment with ACTH induced high, but physiological, concentrations of cortisol in plasma. Simultaneously, the number of lymphocytes per milliliter blood decreased while the neutrophil number increased. The elevated concentrations of cortisol also coincided with reduced proliferation and interleukin-2 production by blood lymphocytes stimulated with the mitogens concanavalin A and phytohemagglutinin in vitro, while the responses to pokeweed mitogen were less affected. The suppression of mitogen responses was more pronounced in cultures of whole blood than in cultures of purified peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC).Antibody production, induced by M. hyopneumoniae in cultures of purified PBMC was also inhibited by ACTH treatment. Both the rate of increase and the magnitude of the antibody production induced by the primary immunization were reduced. In contrast, no effects of ACTH treatment were recorded for the response to the second immunization or on the serum levels of antibodies to M. hyopneumoniae.The ability of blood leukocytes to produce interferon-alpha (IFN-alpha) at exposure in vitro to fixed pseudorabies virus adsorbed to porcine kidney cells increased in all animals shortly after the second immunization with M. hyopneumoniae. The influence of cortisol on the IFN-alpha-producing capacity was dependent on whether the test was carried out in whole blood cultures or in cultures with purified PBMC. This finding further emphasizes that the relevance of in vitro assays for measuring in vivo phenomena must be carefully scrutinized.

Published in

Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology
1994, Volume: 42, number: 3-4, pages: 301-316

      SLU Authors

    • Wallgren, Per

      • Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • National Veterinary Institute (SVA)
      • Fossum, Caroline

        • Department of Veterinary Microbiology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Clinical Science

      Publication identifier


      Permanent link to this page (URI)