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    Animals in the temperate zones face seasonal variations in environments and hence their immune responses change seasonally. In the current study, seasonal changes in hematological parameters and cytokines in striped hamsters (Cricetulus barabensis) were examined to test the winter immunoenhancement hypothesis, which states that immune function tends to increase in fall and winter compared with other seasons. Male and female hamsters were captured from the wild in the fall and winter of 2014 and in the spring and summer of 2015. Maximum body mass in both sexes and relative fatness in female hamsters occurred in the summer, indicating that body condition was the best during this season. All hematological parameters were not different between male and female hamsters, and were also not affected by the interaction of season and sex except neutrophil granulocytes (GRAN). Red blood cells (RBC) and haematocrit (PCV) were higher in the fall and winter, and hemoglobin concentration (HGB) was the highest in winter in hamsters compared with the spring and summer, implying that their oxygen-carrying capacity and oxygen affinity of the blood increased during these seasons. Compared with other seasons, the number of white blood cells (WBC) was higher in winter than in summer, intermediate granulocytes (MID), the percent of MID (MID%), GRAN and the percent of GRAN (GRAN%) were the highest in winter, which all supported the winter immunoenhancement hypothesis. However, the count of lymphocytes (LYMF) was the highest in spring, being inconsistent with this hypothesis. IL-2 levels, but not TNF-α, were influenced by seasons, sex and their interaction in hamsters. Regardless of sex, IL-4 titres were higher in spring and summer than in fall and winter in hamsters. INF-γ titres in male hamsters did not differ between the spring and summer, while its titres in female hamsters was lower in spring in contrast with winter and summer. Higher IL-2 and IL-4 levels during the breeding seasons might be crucial in controlling the increased possibilities of infections in these seasons. In summary, season and sex had disparate effects on different hematological profiles and the levels of cytokines in hamsters.


    De-Li Xu, Xiao-Kai Hu. Season and sex have different effects on hematology and cytokines in striped hamsters (Cricetulus barabensis). Journal of comparative physiology. B, Biochemical, systemic, and environmental physiology. 2020 Jan;190(1):87-100

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    PMID: 31732779

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