Prolonged chronic stress has deleterious effects on immune function and is associated with numerous negative health outcomes. The spleen harbors one-fourth of the body’s lymphocytes and mediates both innate and adaptive immune responses. However, the subset of splenic lymphocytes that respond, either adaptively or maladaptively, to various stressors remains largely unknown. Here we investigated the effects of unpredictable chronic mild stress (CMS) exposure on spleen composition in male mice housed in two different caging conditions: standard caging (Cntl) and enriched environment (EE). EE-caged mice exhibited the greatest absolute number of splenocytes and CMS exposure significantly lowered splenocyte numbers in both caging conditions. Glucocorticoid production, measured by mean fecal corticosterone metabolites (FCM), was significantly lower in EE-caged mice vs. Cntl-caged mice. Surprisingly, CMS exposure resulted in an increase in mean FCM in EE-caged mice, but no significant change in Cntl-caged mice. CMS altered the splenic B:T lymphocyte ratio; it reduced the frequency of B cells, but increased the frequency of T cells in EE-caged mice. Splenocyte number and B:T lymphocyte ratio showed a negative relationship with mean FCM. EE-caged mice had a lower frequency of immature and germinal B cells than Cntl-caged mice. CMS markedly increased the frequency of immature and marginal zone B cells, but decreased the frequency of follicular B cells in both caging conditions. Mean FCM correlated positively with frequency of immature, marginal zone and germinal center B cells, but negatively with frequency of follicular B cells. To conclude, splenic immune cells, particularly B lymphocyte composition, are modulated by caging environment and stress and may prime mice differently to respond to immune challenges.
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Gurfein, B., Hasdemir, B., Milush, J., Touma, C., Palme, R., Nixon, D., Darcel, N., Hecht, F., & Bhargava, A. (2017). Enriched Environment and Stress Exposure Influence Splenic B Lymphocyte Composition.. PLoS One, 12 (7). http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0180771