The primary and secondary immune responses to thymus-dependent and -independent antigens were evaluated in normal male and female mice and in castrated male mice. Both IgM antibody production in the primary response and IgG antibody production in the secondary response were enhanced in females vs. males of equivalent age. Castration of the male converted this animal to a female in terms of responsiveness to the thymus-dependent group of antigens, while inducing equivalent or even greater enhanced responsiveness over the female to the thymus-independent antigen, polyvinylpyrrolidone.
Further characteristics of the changes in lymphoid organs were determined in the castrated animal vs. normal males and females. It was shown that the spleen and thymus became markedly hyperplastic, the organ weights exceeding the female, which in turn were greater than in the male. The enhanced weight of the thymus was shown to be due to increased numbers of cortisone-sensitive cells, the absolute number of cortisone-resistant cells remaining equivalent to normal males and females. Thus, the increased thymic weight of the female also resided in the cortisone-sensitive population. Peripheral lymphocyte counts in castrated animals exceeded both normal males and females. Further experiments in gonadectomized males provided evidence that increased thymic cell activity per se played a role in enhanced response to thymus-dependent antigens, but that a thymic-derived hormone mediated the enhanced effect to the thymus-independent antigen in the castrated animal. The capacity for loss of androgenic hormone-producing tissue to generate enhanced differentiation of stem cells was denoted by experiments in which numbers of spleen colonies and uptake of 59Fe, employed as an index of hematopoiesis 1 wk after reconstitution of lethally irradiated castrated and normal recipients, were enhanced in gonadectomized male animals. Thus, in summary, changes in sex hormone levels exerted a marked influence on immune responsiveness and stem cell differentiation, by increasing numbers of functioning cells, by promoting cellular differentiation, as well as by promoting cellular function via hormonal effects.