Chronic restraint stress promotes lymphocyte apoptosis by modulating CD95 expression

Deling Yin, David Tuthill, R. Allan Mufson, Yufang Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

147 Scopus citations


Depending on the duration and severity, psychological tension and physical stress can enhance or suppress the immune system in both humans and animals. Although it is well established that stress alters the release of various hormones and neurotransmitters, the mechanisms by which stress affects immune responses remain elusive. We report here that mice subjected to chronic 12-hour daily physical restraint for two days exhibited a significant reduction in splenocytes, a process likely mediated by apoptosis as demonstrated by the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick end labeling assay. CD95 (Fas/APO-1) expression in splenic lymphocytes of stressed mice was substantially increased. Interestingly, Fas-immunoglobulin fusion protein and blocking antibodies against CD95 ligand inhibit stress-induced reduction in lymphocytes. The stress-induced changes in CD95 expression and lymphocyte number could be blocked by naltrexone or naloxone, specific opioid receptor antagonists, indicating a pivotal role of endogenous opioids in this process. In addition, the reduction of splenocytes in this model system seems to be independent of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, as both adrenalectomized and sham-operated mice exhibited similar responses to chronic stress. Moreover, chronic physical restraint failed to induce a decrease in lymphocyte numbers in CD95-deficient (Fas(lpr/lpr)) mice. Therefore, stress modulates the immune system through CD95-mediated apoptosis dependent on endogenous opioids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1423-1428
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Experimental Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 17 2000
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


  • Apoptosis
  • Endogenous opioid
  • Fas antigen
  • Lymphocyte
  • Stress


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