Endogenous estrogens, through estrogen receptor α, constrain autoimmune inflammation in female mice by limiting CD4+ T-cell homing into the CNS



Sex hormones influence immune responses and the development of autoimmune diseases including MS and its animal model, EAE. Although it has been previously reported that ovariectomy could worsen EAE, the mechanisms implicated in the protective action of endogenous ovarian hormones have not been addressed. In this report, we now show that endogenous estrogens limit EAE development and CNS inflammation in adult female mice through estrogen receptor α expression in the host non-hematopoietic tissues. We provide evidence that the enhancing effect of gonadectomy on EAE development was due to quantitative rather than qualitative changes in effector Th1 or Th17 cell recruitment into the CNS. Consistent with this observation, adoptive transfer of myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein-specific encephalitogenic CD4+ T lymphocytes induced more severe EAE in ovariectomized mice as compared to normal female mice. Finally, we show that gonadectomy accelerated the early recruitment of inflammatory cells into the CNS upon adoptive transfer of encephalitogenic CD4+ T cells. Altogether, these data show that endogenous estrogens, through estrogen receptor α, exert a protective effect on EAE by limiting the recruitment of blood-derived inflammatory cells into the CNS.