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Open Access Research

Sex chromosome complement contributes to sex differences in coxsackievirus B3 but not influenza A virus pathogenesis

Dionne P Robinson1*, Sally A Huber2, Mohamad Moussawi2, Brian Roberts2, Cory Teuscher3, Rebecca Watkins4, Arthur P Arnold4 and Sabra L Klein1

Author Affiliations

1 The W Harry Feinstone Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

2 Department of Pathology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05446, USA

3 Department of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05446, USA

4 Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, Laboratory of Neuroendocrinology of the Brain Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA

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Biology of Sex Differences 2011, 2:8  doi:10.1186/2042-6410-2-8

Published: 1 August 2011

Abstract

Background

Both coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3) and influenza A virus (IAV; H1N1) produce sexually dimorphic infections in C57BL/6 mice. Gonadal steroids can modulate sex differences in response to both viruses. Here, the effect of sex chromosomal complement in response to viral infection was evaluated using four core genotypes (FCG) mice, where the Sry gene is deleted from the Y chromosome, and in some mice is inserted into an autosomal chromosome. This results in four genotypes: XX or XY gonadal females (XXF and XYF), and XX or XY gonadal males (XXM and XYM). The FCG model permits evaluation of the impact of the sex chromosome complement independent of the gonadal phenotype.

Methods

Wild-type (WT) male and female C57BL/6 mice were assigned to remain intact or be gonadectomized (Gdx) and all FCG mice on a C57BL/6 background were Gdx. Mice were infected with either CVB3 or mouse-adapted IAV, A/Puerto Rico/8/1934 (PR8), and monitored for changes in immunity, virus titers, morbidity, or mortality.

Results

In CVB3 infection, mortality was increased in WT males compared to females and males developed more severe cardiac inflammation. Gonadectomy suppressed male, but increased female, susceptibility to CVB3. Infection with IAV resulted in greater morbidity and mortality in WT females compared with males and this sex difference was significantly reduced by gonadectomy of male and female mice. In Gdx FCG mice infected with CVB3, XY mice were less susceptible than XX mice. Protection correlated with increased CD4+ forkhead box P3 (FoxP3)+ T regulatory (Treg) cell activation in these animals. Neither CD4+ interferon (IFN)γ (T helper 1 (Th1)) nor CD4+ interleukin (IL)-4+ (Th2) responses differed among the FCG mice during CVB3 infection. Infection of Gdx FCG mice revealed no effect of sex chromosome complement on morbidity or mortality following IAV infection.

Conclusions

These studies indicate that sex chromosome complement can influence pathogenicity of some, but not all, viruses.