Background: Men are at an increased risk of dying from heart failure caused by inflammatory heart diseases such as atherosclerosis, myocarditis and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). We previously showed that macrophages in the spleen are phenotypically distinct in male compared to female mice at 12 h after infection. This innate immune profile mirrors and predicts the cardiac immune response during acute myocarditis. Methods: In order to study sex differences in the innate immune response, five male and female BALB/c mice were infected intraperitoneally with coxsackievirus B3 (CVB3) or phosphate buffered saline and their spleens were harvested 12 h later for microarray analysis. Gene expression was determined using an Affymetrix Mouse Gene 1.0 ST Array. Significant gene changes were verified by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction or ELISA. Results: During the innate immune response to CVB3 infection, infected males had higher splenic expression of genes which are important in regulating the influx of cholesterol into macrophages, such as phospholipase A2 (PLA2) and the macrophage scavenger receptor compared to the infected females. We also observed a higher expression in infected males compared to infected females of squalene synthase, an enzyme used to generate cholesterol within cells, and Cyp2e1, an enzyme important in metabolizing cholesterol and steroids. Infected males also had decreased levels of the translocator protein 18 kDa (TSPO), which binds PLA2 and is the rate-limiting step for steroidogenesis, as well as decreased expression of the androgen receptor (AR), which indicates receptor activation. Gene differences were not due to increased viral replication, which was unaltered between sexes. Conclusions: We found that, compared to females, male mice had a greater splenic expression of genes which are important for cholesterol metabolism and activation of the AR at 12 h after infection. Activation of the AR has been linked to increased cardiac hypertrophy, atherosclerosis, myocarditis/DCM and heart failure in male mice and humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Gender Studies