Role of steroid hormones in Trichinella spiralis infection among voles

Sabra L. Klein, H. Ray Gamble, Randy J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Males are generally more susceptible to parasite infection than females. This sex difference may reflect the suppressive effects of testosterone and enhancing effects of estradiol on immune function. This study characterized the role of circulating steroid hormones in sex differences after infection with the nematode Trichinella spiralis. Because testosterone suppresses immune function and because polygynous males have higher circulating testosterone concentrations than monogamous males, sex differences in parasite burden were hypothesized to be exaggerated among polygynous meadow voles compared with monogamous prairie voles. As predicted, sex differences in response to T. spiralis infection were increased among meadow voles; males had higher worm numbers than females. Male and female prairie voles had equivalent parasite burden. Overall, prairie voles had higher worm numbers than meadow voles. Contrary to our initial prediction, differences in circulating estradiol concentrations in females, testosterone concentrations in males, and corticosterone concentrations in both sexes were not related to the observed variation in T. spiralis infection. Taken together, these data suggest that not all sex differences in parasite infection are mediated by circulating steroid hormones and that adaptive-functional explanations may provide new insight into the causes of variation in parasite infection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1362-R1367
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5 46-5
StatePublished - Nov 1999


  • Arvicoline rodents
  • Corticosterone
  • Endocrine-immune interactions
  • Estradiol
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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