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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 2 (1993), Issue 2, Pages 123-127

Transient sex-related changes in the mice hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis during the acute phase of the inflammatory process

1Neuroendocrine Unit, Division of Endocrinology, Department of Medicine, University Hospital, Geneva 4 CH-1211, Switzerland
2Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, University Hospital (CHUV), Lausanne CH-1011, Switzerland

Received 31 December 1992; Accepted 25 January 1993

Copyright © 1993 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The potential role of endogenous sex hormones in regulating hypothalamo–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis function was investigated after a single injection of endotoxin in adult (8 week old) BALB/c mice of both sexes. The effect of LPS on plasma ACTH, corticosterone (B), testosterone and oestradiol (E) levels and on anterior pituitary (AP) ACTH and adrenal B contents at different times after treatment was studied. The results indicate that: (a) basal B but not ACTH plasma levels were significantly higher in female than in male mice; (b) LPS significantly increased both ACTH and B plasma levels over the baseline 2 h after injection, both hormone levels being higher in female than in male mice; (c) although plasma ACTH concentrations recovered the basal value at 72 h after LPS in animals of both sexes, plasma B levels returned to the baseline only at 120 h after treatment; (d) E plasma levels significantly increased 2 h after LPS and returned to the baseline at 72 h post-treatment, in both sexes; (e) at 2 h after LPS, testosterone plasma levels significantly decreased in male mice and increased in female mice, recovering the baseline level at 120 and 72 h after LPS, respectively; (f) AP ACTH content was similar in both sexes in basal condition and it was significantly diminished 72 h post-treatment without sex difference; whereas AP ACTH returned to basal content 120 h after LPS in males, it remained significantly decreased in females; (g) basal adrenal B content was higher in female than in male mice, and it significantly increased in both sexes 2 h post-LPS, maintaining this sex difference. Whereas adrenal B returned to basal content 72 h after treatment in male mice, it remained significantly enhanced up to 120 h post-LPS in female animals. The data demonstrate the existence of a clear sexual dimorphism in basal condition and during the acute phase response as well as in the recovery of the HPA axis function shortly after infection.