Sex-determined resistance to Toxoplasma gondii is associated with temporal differences in cytokine production

Craig Roberts, S M Cruickshank, J Alexander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


Examination of a wide range of inbred mice of diverse genetic backgrounds and major histocompatibility complex haplotypes revealed a dramatic difference in the susceptibilities of males and females to Toxoplasma gondii infection. Female mice were found to be more susceptible to acute infection, as determined by higher mortality levels, than male mice, while those female mice surviving to have chronic infections harbored more cysts in their brains than did surviving males. This phenomenon was therefore investigated in greater depth immunologically in the BALB/K mouse, a strain showing moderate susceptibility to infection with T. gondii. Plasma tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) levels were elevated in both male and female BALB/K mice on days 8 and 10 postinfection, but not thereafter, with males producing significantly higher levels than females. However, it was not until day 12 postinfection that the first deaths occurred, and these were among female mice, indicating that TNF-alpha production was not responsible for mortality. In vitro examination of T. gondii-specific T-cell proliferative responses from day 15 postinfection onwards revealed significantly higher stimulation indices in male mice than in their female counterparts. This difference was most apparent in splenocyte cultures initiated at day 15 postinfection, where complete suppression of proliferation was noted in the splenocytes from female mice but not from male mice. Analysis of tissue culture supernatants from these cultures revealed distinct differences in the kinetics of production as well as the quantities of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) and interleukin 10 (IL-10) produced. Spleen cells from male mice produced higher levels of IFN-gamma in the early stages of infection than those from female mice. IFN-gamma levels were highest in the supernatants from male splenocyte cultures initiated at day 15 postinfection. Similar levels of IFN-gamma were not obtained from the supernatants of female splenocyte cultures until day 22 postinfection. IL-10 production, on the other hand, peaked at maximal levels in the cell cultures from both sexes initiated at day 22 postinfection. These results suggest that, in male mice, a rapid response to infection with high levels of TNF-alpha and IFN-gamma helps to control parasite multiplication, after which IL-10 production may be important in down regulating these potentially harmful inflammatory mediators. The failure of female mice to respond quickly in terms of T-cell proliferation and IFN-gamma production compared with their male counterparts may account for their poor survival rates and higher cyst burdens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2549-2555
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1995


  • animals
  • female
  • interferon-gamma
  • interleukin-10
  • lymphocyte activation
  • male
  • mice
  • mice, inbred C57BL
  • mice, inbred strains
  • sex factors
  • t-lymphocytes
  • toxoplasma
  • toxoplasmosis, animal
  • tumor necrosis factor-alpha


Dive into the research topics of 'Sex-determined resistance to Toxoplasma gondii is associated with temporal differences in cytokine production'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this