We have investigated the effects of sex steroids, estradiol (E2), and testosterone (T) on the synthesis of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) and interleukin-10 (IL-10) in phorbol-myristate-acetate (PMA)-differentiated human monoblastic U937 cells. The ability of both hormones to modulate the viability and programmed cell death of macrophage-like PMA-differentiated U937 cells was also inspected. E2 increased TNF-alpha synthesis, whereas T had no effect on the production of this cytokine. The combination of E2 and its antagonist tamoxifen or ICI-182,789 completely abolished the induction of TNF-alpha, while combination of T and its antagonist Casodex (CSDX) did not significantly affect TNF-alpha production by U937 cells. Exposure of cells to E2 resulted in a dose-dependent decrease of IL-10 synthesis, while again T did not show any detectable effect. In addition, E2 induced a significant increase of apoptosis in macrophage-like U937 cells and this increase was inhibited by the simultaneous addition of either tamoxifen or ICI-182. In contrast, T alone or in combination with CSDX did not modify apoptotic rates of U937 cells. This evidence, taken together, suggests that estrogens, but not androgens, exert a pro-inflammatory action through the modulation of TNF-alpha and IL-10, and regulate the immune effector cells by the induction of programmed cell death.
Copyright 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.