Early alteration in leukocyte populations and TH1/TH2 function in ethanol-consuming mice

Shawn Starkenburg, Melissa E. Munroe, Carl Waltenbaugh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic alcohol consumption polarizes the immune response away from Th1-mediated cell-mediated immunity. In the present report we investigate the first onset of alteration in immune parameters during ethanol consumption in terms of changes in splenic leukocyte cellularity and surface phenotype as well as alterations in Th1 and Th2 function. Methods: BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice were fed ethanol-containing liquid diets, were pair-fed an isocaloric liquid control diet, or were fed solid diet and water ad libitum for up to 12 days. At intervals during the feeding period, splenic leukocytes were assessed for phenotypic markers by flow cytometry and for their ability to support antigen-induced interferon-γ (IFNγ) production in a coculture system. Mice were bled at intervals throughout the feeding period, and serum immunoglobin E (IgE) and alcohol levels were determined. Results: Data show that phenotypic and functional alterations occur within the first few days of alcohol consumption. Both liquid diets affect splenic cellularity, and by dietary day 5, ethanol-containing liquid diets further reduce B and NK cell numbers. The decline in B cells is accompanied by a concomitant decline in the amount of major histocompatibility complex class II expressed on this population. Functional alteration in Th1-mediated IFNγ production occurred in the population fed ethanol-containing liquid diets by dietary day 5. Th2 function, as indicated by systemic serum IgE levels in these unimmunized mice, is increased by dietary day 6 to 8 and correlated with significant blood alcohol levels. Conclusions: Ethanol consumption by mice causes a rapid decrease in splenic cellularity accompanied by a decrease in Th1 function and a rapid increase in systemic IgE levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1221-1230
Number of pages10
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2001


  • Alcohol
  • IFNγ
  • IgE
  • Th1
  • Th2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology


Dive into the research topics of 'Early alteration in leukocyte populations and TH1/TH2 function in ethanol-consuming mice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this