Rationale: An unexplained gender gap is observed in cystic fibrosis (CF). Females have poorer lung function, decreased survival, and earlier Pseudomonas colonization.
Objectives: To evaluate the effect of 17beta-estradiol (E(2)) on CF bronchial epithelial cells in vitro and in vivo.
Methods: On exposure of CFBE41o- cultures to physiological concentrations of E(2), there was a significant dose-dependent inhibition of IL-8 release induced by toll-like receptor agonists, CF bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, or Pseudomonas-conditioned media. Estrogen receptor (ER)-alpha and -beta expression was quantified in cell lines and bronchial brushings from CF and non-CF patients.
Measurements and main results: Both receptors were expressed in vitro and in vivo, although ERbeta expression was significantly higher in CF. Using ER isoform-specific agonists and antagonists, we established that ERbeta mediates the inhibition of CF bronchoalveolar lavage fluid-induced IL-8 release. We also showed that secretory leucoprotease inhibitor gene expression and protein localization to the nucleus increased in response to E(2). Secretory leucoprotease inhibitor knockdown abrogated the inhibitory effects of E(2).
Conclusions: E(2) inhibits IL-8 release by ERbeta in CF bronchial epithelial cells through up-regulation of secretory leucoprotease inhibitor, inhibition of nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB, and IL-8 gene expression. These data implicate a novel anti-inflammatory mechanism for E(2) in females with CF, which predisposes to infection and colonization. This could, in part, account for the observed gender dichotomy in CF.