Suppressive effects of androgens on the immune system

Cell Immunol. 2015 Apr;294(2):87-94. doi: 10.1016/j.cellimm.2015.02.004. Epub 2015 Feb 14.


Sex-based disparities in immune responses are well known phenomena. The two most important factors accounting for the sex-bias in immunity are genetics and sex hormones. Effects of female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone are well established, however the role of testosterone is not completely understood. Evidence from unrelated studies points to an immunosuppressive role of testosterone on different components of the immune system, but the underlying molecular mechanisms remains unknown. In this review we evaluate the effect of testosterone on key cellular components of innate and adaptive immunity. Specifically, we highlight the importance of testosterone in down-regulating the systemic immune response by cell type specific effects in the context of immunological disorders. Further studies are required to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of testosterone-induced immunosuppression, leading the way to the identification of novel therapeutic targets for immune disorders.

Keywords: Adaptive immunity; Androgen; Androgen receptor; Autoimmunity; Cancer; Innate immunity; Sex-bias; Testosterone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity / immunology*
  • B-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / physiology*
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Testosterone / immunology*


  • Testosterone