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      Glucocorticoids, Sex Hormones, and Immunity

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          Glucocorticoid hormones regulate essential body functions in mammals, control cell metabolism, growth, differentiation, and apoptosis. Importantly, they are potent suppressors of inflammation, and multiple immune-modulatory mechanisms involving leukocyte apoptosis, differentiation, and cytokine production have been described. Due to their potent anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressive activity, synthetic glucocorticoids (GCs) are the most prescribed drugs used for treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. It is long been noted that males and females exhibit differences in the prevalence in several autoimmune diseases (AD). This can be due to the role of sexual hormones in regulation of the immune responses, acting through their endogenous nuclear receptors to mediate gene expression and generate unique gender-specific cellular environments. Given the fact that GCs are the primary physiological anti-inflammatory hormones, and that sex hormones may also exert immune-modulatory functions, the link between GCs and sex hormones may exist. Understanding the nature of this possible crosstalk is important to unravel the reason of sexual disparity in AD and to carefully prescribe these drugs for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. In this review, we discuss similarities and differences between the effects of sex hormones and GCs on the immune system, to highlight possible axes of functional interaction.

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          Most cited references 169

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          The steroid and thyroid hormone receptor superfamily.

           Ronald Evans (1988)
          Analyses of steroid receptors are important for understanding molecular details of transcriptional control, as well as providing insight as to how an individual transacting factor contributes to cell identity and function. These studies have led to the identification of a superfamily of regulatory proteins that include receptors for thyroid hormone and the vertebrate morphogen retinoic acid. Although animals employ complex and often distinct ways to control their physiology and development, the discovery of receptor-related molecules in a wide range of species suggests that mechanisms underlying morphogenesis and homeostasis may be more ubiquitous than previously expected.
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            The complex role of estrogens in inflammation.

            There is still an unresolved paradox with respect to the immunomodulating role of estrogens. On one side, we recognize inhibition of bone resorption and suppression of inflammation in several animal models of chronic inflammatory diseases. On the other hand, we realize the immunosupportive role of estrogens in trauma/sepsis and the proinflammatory effects in some chronic autoimmune diseases in humans. This review examines possible causes for this paradox. This review delineates how the effects of estrogens are dependent on criteria such as: 1) the immune stimulus (foreign antigens or autoantigens) and subsequent antigen-specific immune responses (e.g., T cell inhibited by estrogens vs. activation of B cell); 2) the cell types involved during different phases of the disease; 3) the target organ with its specific microenvironment; 4) timing of 17beta-estradiol administration in relation to the disease course (and the reproductive status of a woman); 5) the concentration of estrogens; 6) the variability in expression of estrogen receptor alpha and beta depending on the microenvironment and the cell type; and 7) intracellular metabolism of estrogens leading to important biologically active metabolites with quite different anti- and proinflammatory function. Also mentioned are systemic supersystems such as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the sensory nervous system, and the sympathetic nervous system and how they are influenced by estrogens. This review reinforces the concept that estrogens have antiinflammatory but also proinflammatory roles depending on above-mentioned criteria. It also explains that a uniform concept as to the action of estrogens cannot be found for all inflammatory diseases due to the enormous variable responses of immune and repair systems.
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              Estrogen receptors: how do they signal and what are their targets.

              During the past decade there has been a substantial advance in our understanding of estrogen signaling both from a clinical as well as a preclinical perspective. Estrogen signaling is a balance between two opposing forces in the form of two distinct receptors (ER alpha and ER beta) and their splice variants. The prospect that these two pathways can be selectively stimulated or inhibited with subtype-selective drugs constitutes new and promising therapeutic opportunities in clinical areas as diverse as hormone replacement, autoimmune diseases, prostate and breast cancer, and depression. Molecular biological, biochemical, and structural studies have generated information which is invaluable for the development of more selective and effective ER ligands. We have also become aware that ERs do not function by themselves but require a number of coregulatory proteins whose cell-specific expression explains some of the distinct cellular actions of estrogen. Estrogen is an important morphogen, and many of its proliferative effects on the epithelial compartment of glands are mediated by growth factors secreted from the stromal compartment. Thus understanding the cross-talk between growth factor and estrogen signaling is essential for understanding both normal and malignant growth. In this review we focus on several of the interesting recent discoveries concerning estrogen receptors, on estrogen as a morphogen, and on the molecular mechanisms of anti-estrogen signaling.

                Author and article information

                Front Immunol
                Front Immunol
                Front. Immunol.
                Frontiers in Immunology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                12 June 2018
                : 9
                1Section of Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, University of Perugia , Perugia, Italy
                2Department of Surgery and Biomedical Sciences, University of Perugia , Perugia, Italy
                Author notes

                Edited by: Marina Pierdominici, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy

                Reviewed by: Roberto Paganelli, Università degli Studi G. d’Annunzio Chieti e Pescara, Italy; Silvia Piconese, Sapienza Università di Roma, Italy

                *Correspondence: Carlo Riccardi, carlo.riccardi@ 123456unipg.it

                Specialty section: This article was submitted to Cytokines and Soluble Mediators in Immunity, a section of the journal Frontiers in Immunology

                Copyright © 2018 Bereshchenko, Bruscoli and Riccardi.

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                Page count
                Figures: 0, Tables: 1, Equations: 0, References: 199, Pages: 10, Words: 9966
                Funded by: Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca 10.13039/501100003407
                Award ID: PRIN2015ZT9HXY, RBFR13BN6Y
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