Hydroxylated estrogen metabolites influence the proliferation of cultured human monocytes: possible role in synovial tissue hyperplasia

Clin Exp Rheumatol. Sep-Oct 2008;26(5):903-9.


Introduction: 17Beta-estradiol, estrone, and several of their hydroxylated metabolites, have been found to be significantly increased in synovial fluid of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. In this study, we investigated whether the estrogen metabolites are able to exert direct effects on monocyte cell proliferation, which is important in RA synovial tissue activation and growth.

Methods: Human monocytes (THP-1) were treated with the following estrogen metabolites at different concentrations (from 10-8M, 10-9M, 10-10M to 10-11M) for 24, 48 and 72 hours: 16-hydroxyestrone (16OH-E1), 16-hydroxyestradiol (16OH-E2), 4-hydroxyestrone (4OH-E1), 4-hydroxyestradiol (4OH-E2), 2-hydroxyestrone (2OH-E1) and 2-hydroxyestradiol (2OH-E2). Monocytes were activated with interferon-gamma (INF-gamma). Cell cultures were also performed in presence of tamoxifen (10-7M) to evaluate whether the estrogen metabolites act through the estrogen receptors (ER). Cell growth was detected by MTT test and cell viability through the LDH release assay.

Results: 4OH-E1 and 2OH-E1 significantly increased cell growth at low concentration (10-10M), whereas they significantly reduced cell proliferation at high concentrations (10-9M). 16OH-E2 and 4OH-E2 induced opposite effects: cell proliferation at high concentration and antiproliferative action at low doses. On the contrary, 16OH-E1 and 2OH-E2 were found to be estrogen metabolites that induced cell proliferative effects for most of the tested doses. Tamoxifen caused the loss of effects on cell proliferation for almost all the metabolites.

Conclusion: This study first demonstrates that different downstream estrogen metabolites interfere with monocyte proliferation and generally might modulate the immune response. Therefore, since estrogen metabolite/ratios are altered in the synovial fluid of RA patients, they might play important roles at least in RA synovial tissue hyperplasia.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Estradiol / physiology
  • Estriol / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxyestrones / physiology*
  • Monocytes / physiology*


  • Hydroxyestrones
  • Estradiol
  • Estriol