• T lymphocytes;
  • B lymphocytes;
  • NK cells;
  • DTH skin test;
  • POF

PROBLEM: Premature ovarian failure (POF) probably belongs to the group of autoimmune endocrinopathies. Cell-mediated immune parameters were investigated. Sex steroids have a profound effect on the immune system. POF patients and postmenopausal control women (PM) were tested with or without estrogen substitution.

METHOD: A novel FACS analysis system (using double labeling techniques) was used in 30 patients with POF to enumerate the subjects of peripheral blood lymphocytes and NK cells. Eighteen PM women and 30 healthy men and women served as controls. We also tested the delayed type hypersensitivity skin test (DTH) toward Candida in the POF patient group to be informed on their cell-mediated immune function.

RESULTS: The numbers of blood lymphocytes, CD3+, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, were not abnormal in POF patients. However, HLA-DR+ T cells were increased in POF patients and in PM women (P<0.05). These elevated numbers were partially reversible by estrogen substitution. The number of CD19+ cells (B cells) was elevated, whereas CD3/CD16+/CD56+ cells (NK cells) were decreased in POF patients (P<0.05), irrespective of estrogen substitution. DTH skin tests toward 0.1% Candidin (0.1 ml intradermal injection) were negative in 11 out of 20 tested POF patients, compared to only 2 out of 10 tested controls (P<0.05).

CONCLUSION: POF patients show numerous immune cell abnormalities. These abnormalities were only partially due to estrogen deficiency. We hypothesize that these abnormalities either lead to ovarian autoimmunity or may have direct effects on the ovarian function.