It is widely recognized that changes in levels of ovarian steroids modulate severity of autoimmune disease and immune function in young adult women. These observations suggest that the loss of ovarian steroids associated with menopause could affect the age-related decline in immune function, known as immune senescence. Therefore, in this study, we determined the impact of menopause and estrogen therapy (ET) on lymphocyte subset frequency as well as the immune response to seasonal influenza vaccine in three different groups: 1) young adult women (regular menstrual cycles, not on hormonal contraception); 2) post-menopausal (at least 2 years) women who are not receiving any form of hormone therapy (HT) and 3) post-menopausal hysterectomized women receiving ET. Although the numbers of circulating CD4 and CD20 B cells were reduced in the post-menopausal group receiving ET, we also detected a better preservation of naïve B cells, decreased CD4 T cell inflammatory cytokine production, and slightly lower circulating levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6. Following vaccination, young adult women generated more robust antibody and T cell responses than both post-menopausal groups. Despite similar vaccine responses between the two post-menopausal groups, we observed a direct correlation between plasma 17β estradiol (E2) levels and fold increase in IgG titers within the ET group. These findings suggest that ET affects immune homeostasis and that higher plasma E2 levels may enhance humoral responses in post-menopausal women.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)