Signaling via estrogen receptors (ER) is recognized as an essential part of the immune regulation, and ER-mediated signaling is involved in autoimmune reactions. Especially ERα activation in immune cells has been suggested to skew cytokine production toward Th2/M2-type mediators, which can have protective effect on inflammatory diseases and reduce Th1 and Th17 responses. These effects are caused by increased alternative activation of macrophages and changes in the activation of different T cell populations. In humans, hormonal status has been shown to have a major impact on several inflammatory diseases. Selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) are ER ligands that regulate ER actions in a tissue-specific manner mostly lacking the adverse effects of steroid hormones. The impact of SERMs on the immune system is less studied, but it is suggested that certain SERMs may also produce immunoprotective effects. Here, we show that two novel SERMs and raloxifene affect immune cells by promoting M2 macrophage phenotype, alleviating NFκB activity, inhibiting T cell proliferation, and stimulating the production of anti-inflammatory compounds such as IL10 and IL1 receptor antagonist. Thus, these compounds have high potency as drug candidates against autoimmune diseases.
Keywords: SERM; estradiol; estrogen receptor; inflammation; macrophages; raloxifene.