Bidirectional Communication between the Immune and Endocrine Systems — Mediation by Hormones from the Gonads
Communication between immune and endocrine systems depend on steroid hormones. Both gonadal steroids (GS) and adrenal steroids (AS) are involved because they target diverse cell types within the immune system. Lymphoid cells sequestered within the cortical thymic compartment are responsive to modulation by both GS and AS and, in addition, reticuloendothelial (RE) cells of thymic matrix are also targeted. During maturation lymphoblasts within the cortex possess steroid receptors for both GS and AS but mature thymocytes only retain their AS receptors. This suggests that one or more stages in early development of lymphocytes may be regulated by both GS and AS within the thymic microenvironment. Also, maturation depends on regulatory substances such as thymic hormones secreted by the RE cells under the control of GS and AS. Thus a concert of hormones present during early maturation may program developing lymphocyte subpopulations and lead to immunological sexual dimorphism.
The question of hormonal feedback from lymphocytes to regulate endocrine events during maturation remains unanswered. However, such feedback pathways are present for mature effector cells undergoing an active immune response. Included in this scheme are cytokines that impact the hypothalamus thereby regulating the pituitary axes controlling both the gonads and adrenals. This results in down regulation of immune effector cells via activation of the adrenal axis accompanied by inhibition of the gonadal axis.
KeywordsAndrogen Receptor Glucocorticoid Receptor Steroid Receptor Gonadal Steroid Adrenal Steroid
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