Endocrine control of mucosal immunity in the female reproductive tract: impact of environmental disruptors

Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2012 May 6;354(1-2):85-93. doi: 10.1016/j.mce.2012.01.002. Epub 2012 Jan 25.


The complexity of the human female reproductive tract (FRT) with its multiple levels of hormonally controlled immune protection has only begun to be understood. Dissecting the functions and roles of the immune system in the FRT is complicated by the differential hormonal regulation of its distinct anatomical structures that vary throughout the menstrual cycle. Although many fundamental mechanisms of steroid regulation of reproductive tract immune function have been determined, the effects of exogenous synthetic steroids or endocrine disruptors on immune function and disease susceptibility in the FRT have yet to be evaluated in detail. There is increasing evidence that environmental or synthetic molecules can alter normal immune function. This review provides an overview of the innate and adaptive immune systems, the current status of immune function in the FRT and the potential risks of environmental or pharmacological molecules that may perturb this system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endocrine Disruptors / pharmacology*
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / cytology
  • Genitalia, Female / drug effects
  • Genitalia, Female / immunology*
  • Genitalia, Female / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immune System / cytology
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Immune System / growth & development
  • Immunity, Mucosal / drug effects*
  • Mucous Membrane / drug effects
  • Mucous Membrane / immunology*
  • Mucous Membrane / metabolism
  • Reproduction / drug effects


  • Endocrine Disruptors