Date of Original Version




Abstract or Description

Exposure to acute stressors has been shown to impair cellular immunity in human beings and other animal species. Comparatively little is known, however, about the effects of long-term stressors on immune function and how individual behavioral characteristics may mediate differences in immune function and clinical disease susceptibility. To determine the effects of social stress on cellular immunity and reactivation of a latent herpesvirus, 20 Herpes B virus-positive male cynomolgus monkeys were exposed to four periodic reorganizations of social group memberships over 5 months. Observations were made to categorize individuals as high or low in expression of aggressive, fearful, and affiliative behaviors. Complete blood counts, lymphocyte proliferation tests, and natural killer cell cytotoxicity assays were performed immediately before and 4 days after reorganizations. Herpesvirus-specific immunoglobulin G antibody levels were measured, and oral and conjunctival swabs were cultured for virus. Reorganization was associated with increased lymphocyte counts (P = 0.0009) and decreased lymphocyte proliferation in response to phytohemagglutinin (P < 0.005), particularly among monkeys showing high levels of fear (P = 0.0137). High-aggressive monkeys showed lower baseline natural killer cell activity (P = 0.0013) and higher lymphocyte counts (P = 0.013) than low-aggressive monkeys. Herpesvirus antibody titers decreased over time (P < 0.004) and no positive virus cultures were obtained. Measures of cellular immunity and behavior were unrelated to virus-specific antibody titers. These results suggest that repeated exposure to a social stressor alters several measures of cellular immunity, and that some of these changes may be predicted by individual differences in agonistic behavior. In contrast to human studies, the results suggest that some psychological stressors may not cause reactivation of a common herpesvirus in this species.





Published In

American Journal of Primatology , 39, 235-249.