Sex and estradiol influence glial pro-inflammatory responses to lipopolysaccharide in rats

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Oct;37(10):1688-99. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.02.018. Epub 2012 Apr 10.


There is a greater prevalence of neuroinflammatory diseases in females than males. Microglia, the major immunocompetent cells of the central nervous system, play a key role in neuroinflammation. We aimed to determine if inherent differences in toll-like receptor 4 mediated pro-inflammatory response in glia could possibly contribute to the skewed female prevalence of neuroinflammatory disorders. In addition, in order to identify if estradiol (E2), the major female sex steroid contributes to a heightened pro-inflammatory response, estradiol was added both in vivo and in vitro. Microglia and astrocytes were isolated from neonatal pups and stimulated with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in the presence and absence of E2. Hippocampal microglia were isolated from adult male and female rats and stimulated ex vivo with LPS. Male neonatal microglia and astrocytes produced greater IL-1β mRNA than females. However, when co-incubated with varying doses of estradiol (E2), the E2 produced anti-inflammatory effects in the male microglia but a pro-inflammatory effect in female microglia. LPS-induced IL-1β mRNA was attenuated by E2 in female but not male adult hippocampal microglia. However, females supplemented with E2 in vivo produced a potentiated IL-1β mRNA response. TLR4 mRNA was decreased by LPS in both microglia and astrocytes but was not affected by sex or E2. CD14 mRNA was increased by LPS and may be elevated more in females than males in microglia but not astrocytes. Therefore, sexual dimorphic differences do occur in both neonatal and adult microglia though maturity of the microglia at the time of isolation influences the pro-inflammatory response.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Astrocytes / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Hippocampus / drug effects
  • Inflammation / chemically induced*
  • Interleukin-1beta / biosynthesis
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors / biosynthesis
  • Lipopolysaccharides / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Microglia / drug effects*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sex Factors
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4 / biosynthesis


  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Lipopolysaccharide Receptors
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • Tlr4 protein, rat
  • Toll-Like Receptor 4
  • Estradiol