Transgenic mice expressing the BV8S2 chain, which is specific for the myelin basic protein determinant Ac1-11, possess a naturally induced set of regulatory T cells directed against BV8S2. Further activation of anti-BV8S2 T cells in male mice with recombinant BV8S2 protein can inhibit IFN-γ release by Ac1-11-specific T cells through a cytokine-driven mechanism and prevent induction of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). In contrast, naive female mice possess fewer anti-BV8S2-reactive T cells, and treatment with BV8S2 delayed but did not prevent EAE. We here demonstrate that combining T-cell receptor (TCR) vaccination with supplemental estrus doses of estrogen potentiated IL-10 production by anti-BV8S2-reactive T cells and induced Ac1-11-specific T cells to produce IL-10 and TGF-β. This combined treatment resulted in full protection against EAE, which was not observed with either therapy alone. These findings imply that supplemental estrogen can enhance the efficacy of TCR-based immunotherapy for autoimmune diseases that predominate in females.
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