Ex vivo effect of estrogen and progesterone compared with dexamethasone on cell-mediated immunity of HIV-infected and uninfected subjects

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2007 Jun 1;45(2):137-43. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0b013e3180471bae.


To define the effect of estrogen and progesterone concentrations achieved during hormonal contraceptive therapy (HCT) on cell-mediated immunity (CMI) of HIV-infected and uninfected subjects, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from varicella-zoster virus (VZV)-seropositive individuals were treated with 0.1 ng/mL of estradiol, 33 ng/mL of norgestrel, and 13 ng/mL of dexamethasone and tested for VZV CMI. Estrogen and progesterone decreased VZV lymphocyte proliferation and T helper (Th) 1/inflammatory cytokine secretion, albeit less than dexamethasone. Progesterone decreased the expression of CD69 activation marker on CD8 and CD14 cells and increased the expression of Fas ligand (CD178) on CD14 monocytes, suggesting that induction of apoptosis may contribute to the inhibitory effect of this hormone. Cytokine production of separated CD4, CD8, and CD14 cells confirmed the effect of progesterone on all 3 cellular types, whereas the effect of estrogen was restricted to CD14 monocytes. The estrogen- and progesterone-mediated inhibition of Th1/inflammatory cytokines was greater in HIV-infected subjects (35% decrease for both hormones) compared with uninfected subjects (12% and 19% for estrogen and progesterone, respectively), whereas the effect on proliferation and PBMC phenotype did not differ by HIV status. Overall, HCT concentrations of estrogen and progesterone downregulated ex vivo VZV CMI of HIV-infected and uninfected subjects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology*
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • Herpesvirus 3, Human / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / drug effects*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / virology
  • Norgestrel / pharmacology*


  • Cytokines
  • Norgestrel
  • Estradiol
  • Dexamethasone