Loss of T cells influences sex differences in behavior and brain structure

Kelly C. Rilett, Miriam Friedel, Jacob Ellegood, Robyn N. MacKenzie, Jason P. Lerch, Jane A. Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Clinical and animal studies demonstrate that immune-brain communication influences behavior and brain function. Mice lacking T cell receptor β and δ chains were tested in the elevated plus maze, open field, and light-dark test and showed reduced anxiety-like behavior compared to wild type. Interestingly sex differences were observed in the behavioural phenotype of TCRβ-/-δ- mice. Specifically, female TCRβ-/-δ- mice spent more time in the light chamber compared to wild type females, whereas male TCRβ-/-δ- spent more time in the center of the open field compared to wild type males. In addition, TCRβ-/-δ- mice did not show sex differences in activity-related behaviors observed in WT mice. Ex vivo brain imaging (7 Tesla MRI) revealed volume changes in hippocampus, hypothalamus, amygdala, periaqueductal gray, and dorsal raphe and other brain regions between wild type and T cell receptor knockout mice. There was also a loss of sexual dimorphism in brain volume in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, normally the most sexually dimorphic region in the brain, in immune compromised mice. These data demonstrate the presence of T cells is important in the development of sex differences in CNS circuitry and behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-260
Number of pages12
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
StatePublished - May 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain structure
  • Elevated plus maze
  • Light/dark
  • MRI
  • Open field
  • Sex difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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