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1 February 2006 Estrogens and Glucocorticoids Have Opposing Effects on the Amount and Latent Activity of Complement Proteins in the Rat Uterus
Turk Rhen, John A. Cidlowski
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The mammalian uterus faces unique immunological challenges. It must nurture and protect the semiallogenic fetus from attack by the maternal immune system while guarding against infection by pathogens that compromise fetal and maternal health. Complement has recently been implicated in the etiology of pregnancy loss, but its regulation by steroid hormones and its role in host defense in the uterus are not clearly defined. Here we use biochemical, functional, and physiological assays to elucidate the regulation of complement proteins in the rat uterus. We demonstrate that estrogens (17 beta-estradiol) and glucocorticoids (dexamethasone) have major, but opposing, effects on the amount and latent activity of complement effectors in the uterus. Treatment with 17 beta-estradiol induced vasodilation and an increase in vascular permeability, which resulted in extravasation of plasma and complement into the uterus, rather than de novo complement biosynthesis. In vitro assays revealed that 17 beta-estradiol induced a potent bactericidal activity in uterine luminal fluid and that the antibacterial component was complement. These proinflammatory and immunomodulatory effects were evident within 4 h of treatment and were blocked by coadministration of dexamethasone. We also found that estrogen effects on the vasculature were mediated in part by activation of the contact system and bradykinin B1 receptors. These results indicate that complement plays a central role in innate immunity in the female reproductive tract and suggest that estrogens or glucocorticoids might be used therapeutically to enhance or inhibit complement-dependent processes in the uterus.

Turk Rhen and John A. Cidlowski "Estrogens and Glucocorticoids Have Opposing Effects on the Amount and Latent Activity of Complement Proteins in the Rat Uterus," Biology of Reproduction 74(2), 265-274, (1 February 2006).
Received: 8 July 2005; Accepted: 1 October 2005; Published: 1 February 2006

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