• Cortisone;
  • follicular cysts;
  • `self reactive' T lymphocytes;
  • thymocytes

PROBLEM: Female mice that are injected with estradiol-17β (E2) and testosterone during the 7-day immune adaptive period are infertile at adulthood. To determine whether the resultant infertility can be caused by steroids other than estrogens/androgens, this study examined the effect of injecting cortisone, alone, and in combination with E2 and testosterone, on reproductive function.

METHOD OF STUDY: Neonatal (C57BL/6J × A/J)F1 B6A female mice were injected from 3 to 6 days of age with sesame oil:ethanol (9:1; v:v), alone, or containing 20 μg cortisone acetate, 20 μg E2, or 20 μg testosterone. Two additional groups were given 20 μg cortisone acetate in combination with 20 μg E2 or 20 μg testosterone. At adulthood the animals were killed, the stage of vaginal estrus determined, the ovaries examined for the presence of corpora lutea and follicular cysts, and circulating levels of progesterone, E2, and testosterone were measured by radioimmunoassay (RIA).

RESULTS: It was found that injections of cortisone seriously compromise reproductive development. For example, 11% of cortisone-injected animals had ovaries that lacked corpora lutea. In addition, 39% of cortisone-injected females had ovaries with follicular cysts. Cortisone-injected females also had low levels of circulating progesterone (18 ng/mL versus 30 ng/mL for the sesame oil-injected females).

CONCLUSION: It is concluded that the deleterious effect of steroids on reproductive function, when administered during the immune adaptive period, is not restricted to estrogens and androgens. It is proposed that injections of cortisone alter T-lymphocyte subsets, which contributes to anovulation and the production of follicular cysts.