Experimental objectives: The interaction between the endocrine and immune systems is a very intriguing area. Endogenous glucocorticoids, as end-effectors of the hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenal axis, inhibit the immune and inflammatory responses and are used as immunosuppressive drugs in many inflammatory, autoimmune and allergic diseases. The aims of this study were to investigate the effects of dexamethasone on the profile of cytokine secretion in whole blood cell cultures from healthy subjects and to analyse the gender-related sensitivity to dexamethasone on each cytokine secretion.
Results: There was a significant inhibition by dexamethasone (from 1 to 100 nM) on the secretion of monokines (IL-1beta, IL-6, IL-8 and TNF alpha) and lymphokines (IL-2, IL-4, IL-10 and IFN gamma), either after LPS or PHA stimulation (P < 0.01). Interleukin 4 and IL-10 were less inhibited than IFN gamma (P < 0.05 at 1 nM, P < 0.01 at 10 nM and P < 0.001 from 100 nM to 10 microM). No gender difference was observed in the rate of inhibition of the secretion of each cytokine.
Conclusion: This study shows that the inhibition of cytokine secretion by dexamethasone is more marked on Th1-type cytokines than on Th2-type cytokines. These data support the idea that glucocorticoids may induce a shift from the Th1 to Th2 profile of cytokine secretion.