Accelerated resolution of inflammation underlies sex differences in inflammatory responses in humans

Krishnaraj S Rathod, Vikas Kapil, Shanti Velmurugan, Rayomand S Khambata, Umme Siddique, Saima Khan, Sven Van Eijl, Lorna C Gee, Jascharanpreet Bansal, Kavi Pitrola, Christopher Shaw, Fulvio D'Acquisto, Romain A Colas, Federica Marelli-Berg, Jesmond Dalli, Amrita Ahluwalia

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BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular disease occurs at lower incidence in premenopausal females compared with age-matched males. This variation may be linked to sex differences in inflammation. We prospectively investigated whether inflammation and components of the inflammatory response are altered in females compared with males.

METHODS: We performed 2 clinical studies in healthy volunteers. In 12 men and 12 women, we assessed systemic inflammatory markers and vascular function using brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD). In a further 8 volunteers of each sex, we assessed FMD response to glyceryl trinitrate (GTN) at baseline and at 8 hours and 32 hours after typhoid vaccine. In a separate study in 16 men and 16 women, we measured inflammatory exudate mediators and cellular recruitment in cantharidin-induced skin blisters at 24 and 72 hours.

RESULTS: Typhoid vaccine induced mild systemic inflammation at 8 hours, reflected by increased white cell count in both sexes. Although neutrophil numbers at baseline and 8 hours were greater in females, the neutrophils were less activated. Systemic inflammation caused a decrease in FMD in males, but an increase in females, at 8 hours. In contrast, GTN response was not altered in either sex after vaccine. At 24 hours, cantharidin formed blisters of similar volume in both sexes; however, at 72 hours, blisters had only resolved in females. Monocyte and leukocyte counts were reduced, and the activation state of all major leukocytes was lower, in blisters of females. This was associated with enhanced levels of the resolving lipids, particularly D-resolvin.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that female sex protects against systemic inflammation-induced endothelial dysfunction. This effect is likely due to accelerated resolution of inflammation compared with males, specifically via neutrophils, mediated by an elevation of the D-resolvin pathway.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT01582321 and NRES: City Road and Hampstead Ethics Committee: 11/LO/2038.

FUNDING: The authors were funded by multiple sources, including the National Institute for Health Research, the British Heart Foundation, and the European Research Council.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-182
Number of pages14
JournalThe Journal of clinical investigation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2017


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Blister
  • Brachial Artery
  • Cantharidin
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nitroglycerin
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Time Factors
  • Typhoid-Paratyphoid Vaccines
  • Vasodilation
  • Clinical Trial
  • Journal Article

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