Sex-specific immune mechanisms in PTSD symptomatology and risk: A translational overview and perspectives.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Brain Res Bull, Volume 195, p.120-129 (2023)


Animals, Brain, Central Nervous System, Female, Humans, Inflammation, Male, Monocytes, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic


<p>Altered immune function in patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may play a role in the disorder pathophysiology and onset. Women are more likely to develop PTSD, suggesting potential sex-specific inflammatory mechanisms underlying the dichotomous prevalence and risk of PTSD in men and women. In this review we examine the available literature to better assess the state of knowledge in the field. In humans, increased systemic inflammation is found in both men and women with PTSD, but seems to be at a greater extend in women. Despite the existence of few clinical studies taking account of sex as a factor in the observed immune changes in PTSD, challenges in the study of sex-specific immune function in humans include: controlling for confounding variates such as the type of trauma and the ethnicity; and limited methodologies available to study central nervous system (CNS)-relevant changes. Thus, preclinical studies are a valuable tool to provide us with key insights on sex-specific peripheral and CNS immune mechanisms underlying PTSD. Available preclinical studies reported increased systemic and CNS inflammation, as well as elevated trafficking of monocytes from the periphery to the brain in both male and female rodents. To date, psychological trauma-induced inflammation is more robust in female vs male rodents. Limitations of preclinical studies include animal models hardly applicable to female rodents, and hormonal changes across estrus phases that may affect immune function. The present review: (1) highlights the key findings from both human and animal studies, (2) provides guidance to address limitations; and (3) discusses the gap of knowledge on the complex intertwined interaction between the brain, neurovascular, and systemic units.</p>

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