Estrogen increases the number of plasma cells and enhances their autoantibody production in nonautoimmune C57BL/6 mice

Cell Immunol. 1998 Nov 1;189(2):125-34. doi: 10.1006/cimm.1998.1372.


The immunological consequences of chronic estrogen exposure in normal individuals are not known, particularly in relation to B cells. In this study, by employing ELIspot, image cytometry, flow cytometry, cytology, and ELISA, we show that long-term exposure of normal mice to estrogen activates B cells to produce higher numbers of not only immunoglobulin-producing cells, but also autoantibody-producing cells. Estrogen promoted a decrease in B220(+) splenic lymphocytes, but resulted in a 10-fold increase in plasma cells. Further, the output of immunoglobulins including autoantibodies from individual plasma cells from estrogen-exposed mice was markedly increased, suggesting B cell hyperactivity. Importantly, our findings show that treatment of normal mice, solely with estrogen, can override B cell tolerance and promote autoreactive B cells in normal individuals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / biosynthesis*
  • B-Lymphocytes / drug effects
  • Bone Marrow Cells / drug effects
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Immunoglobulin G / biosynthesis
  • Immunoglobulin M / biosynthesis
  • Lymphocyte Count
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Plasma Cells / drug effects*
  • Plasma Cells / immunology
  • Spleen / drug effects


  • Autoantibodies
  • Estrogens
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M