Estrogen up-regulates inducible nitric oxide synthase, nitric oxide, and cyclooxygenase-2 in splenocytes activated with T cell stimulants: Role of interferon-gamma
Estrogen is implicated in many autoimmune diseases and is a robust immunomodulator. For example, it regulates interferon (IFN)-gamma, a cytokine believed to up-regulate inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS). A notable gap in the literature is a lack of information on the regulation of nitric oxide in immune tissues by estrogen. We now show that activation of splenocytes with T cell stimulants [concanavalin-A (Con-A) or anti-CD3 antibodies] results in copious release of nitric oxide in splenocyte cultures from estrogen-treated but not placebo-treated mice. Moreover, even a low dose of T cell stimulants induced nitric oxide in splenocytes from estrogen-treated, but not placebo-treated, mice. Con-A-activated splenocytes from estrogen-treated mice also have up-regulated iNOS mRNA, iNOS protein, and cyclooxygenase-2 (a nitric oxide-regulated downstream proinflammatory protein) when compared with controls. Our studies suggest that the induction of nitric oxide by activated splenocytes from estrogen-treated mice is mediated in part by IFN gamma. First, blocking costimulatory signals mediated through interactions of CD28 and B7 molecules by CTLA-4Ig markedly decreased not only IFN gamma but also nitric oxide. Second, estrogen treatment of IFN gamma-knockout (IFN gamma(-)/(-)) mice did not induce iNOS protein or nitric oxide. Finally, in vitro addition of recombinant IFN gamma to Con-A-activated splenocytes from IFN gamma((-)/(-)) mice induced iNOS protein primarily in estrogen-treated mice. Overall, this is the first report to show that estrogen treatment up-regulates IFN gamma-inducible-iNOS gene expression, iNOS protein, nitric oxide, and cyclooxygenase-2 as an indirect consequence of activation of T cells. These findings may have wide implications to immunity and inflammatory disorders including female-predominant autoimmune diseases.