Estrogen-Mediated Immunomodulation

  • Oscar J. Pung
  • Anne N. Tucker
  • Michael I. Luster


Early anatomic observations demonstrating that ovariectomy enhanced thymic weights while thymectomy modulated uterine weight provided an impetus for numerous studies which established a relationship between sex hormones and the immune system (see rev. by Ahlquist, 1976; Kalland, 1982; Luster et al., 1985). These studies suggested that pharmacological and to some extent physiological levels of estrogens, as well as inadvertent exposure to estrogenic compounds in the environment, may modulate immune function. Consistent with the immunological alterations, clinical and laboratory studies demonstrated that altered estrogen levels can modulate host resistance to a variety of infectious agents. Illustrative of this are the findings that estrogens precipitate a dramatic increase in Listeria monocytogenes susceptibility (Dean et al., 1980; Pung et al., 1984), impair the intestinal expulsion of adult nematode Trichinella spiralis (Dean et al., 1980; Luebke et al., 1984) and increase the susceptibility of mice to both transplantable and methylcholanthreneinduced tumors (Dean et al., 1980; Morahan et al., 1984; Kalland and Forsberg, 1981). Estradiol has also been shown to induce more intense chlamydial (Rank et al., 1982) and staphylococcal (Toivanen, 1967) infections. Pharmacological doses of diethylstilbestrol (DES), a nonsteroidal synthetic estrogen, or 176-estradiol increase the severity of experimental toxoplasmosis in mice (Pung and Luster, submitted). In other instances, estrogen treated mice are less susceptible to bacterial infection, examples being Pneumococcus Type I, Pasteurella spp. and Salmonella spp. (Nicol et al., 1964). Rodents exposed to DES are also less susceptible to the formation of transplantable lung melanoma tumors (Fugmann et al., 1983) as well as to certain plasmodial, babesial and trypanosomal infections (Cottrell et al., 1977; Kierszenbaum et al., 1974; Mankau, 1975).


Estrogen Receptor Natural Killer Cell Activity Thymic Epithelial Cell Estramustine Phosphate Thymic Weight 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oscar J. Pung
    • 1
  • Anne N. Tucker
    • 1
  • Michael I. Luster
    • 1
  1. 1.National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Systemic Toxicology Branch, TRTPResearch Triangle ParkUSA

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