Sex Hormone Modulation of Proinflammatory Cytokine and C-reactive Protein Expression in Macrophages from Older Men and Postmenopausal Women

Document Type

Article - Open Access

Publication Title

Journal of Endocrinology


Society for Endocrinology

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

Inflammation plays a central role in the development and progression of coronary heart disease (CHD). The sex hormones estrogen and testosterone have been shown to modify the inflammatory response by influencing cytokine expression in human macrophages obtained from younger individuals. The effect of these hormones on the expression of proinflammatory markers in macrophages obtained from a CHD age-relevant population has not been studied. Human monocyte-derived macrophages (HMDMs) were obtained from healthy normolipidemic men and postmenopausal women (age 50–70 years), and cultured in autologous serum along with both physiological and supraphysiological concentrations of estrogen or testosterone. HMDMs were stimulated with oxidized low-density lipoproteins, and the expression of the cytokines tumor necrosis factor a (TNF-a or TNF), interleukin (IL)6, and IL-1b (IL1B) and of the acute-phase protein C-reactive protein (CRP) was measured. Both physiological and supraphysiological concentrations of testosterone reduced the expression and secretion of TNF-a and reduced the expression of IL-1b, but did not affect the expression of IL6 or CRP. Estrogen did not modify the expression of TNF-a, IL6, and IL-1b. Estrogen caused a variable response in CRP expression that was positively associated with the plasma small dense LDL-cholesterol concentration of the donors. There were no gender differences in any of the observed effects. Our results indicate that testosterone may exert anti-inflammatory effects by reducing macrophage TNF-a expression, while the effects of estrogen on macrophage CRP expression may depend upon the extracellular lipid environment.