Steady-state estradiol triggers a unique innate immune response to allergen resulting in increased airway resistance

Kristi J. Warren, Cassandra Deering-Rice, Tom Huecksteadt, Shubhanshi Trivedi, Alessandro Venosa, Christopher Reilly, Karl Sanders, Frederic Clayton, Todd A. Wyatt, Jill A. Poole, Nicola M. Heller, Daniel Leung, Robert Paine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Rationale: Asthma is a chronic airway condition that occurs more often in women than men during reproductive years. Population studies have collectively shown that long-term use of oral contraceptives decreased the onset of asthma in women of reproductive age. In the current study, we hypothesized that steady-state levels of estrogen would reduce airway inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness to methacholine challenge. Methods: Ovariectomized BALB/c mice (Ovx) were implanted with subcutaneous hormone pellets (estrogen, OVX-E2) that deliver consistent levels of estrogen [68 ± 2 pg/mL], or placebo pellets (OVX-Placebo), followed by ovalbumin sensitization and challenge. In conjunction with methacholine challenge, immune phenotyping was performed to correlate inflammatory proteins and immune populations with better or worse pulmonary outcomes measured by invasive pulmonary mechanics techniques. Results: Histologic analysis showed an increase in total cell infiltration and mucus staining around the airways leading to an increased inflammatory score in ovarectomized (OVX) animals with steady-state estrogen pellets (OVX-E2-OVA) as compared to other groups including female-sham operated (F-INTACT-OVA) and OVX implanted with a placebo pellet (OVX-Pl-OVA). Airway resistance (Rrs) and lung elastance (Ers) were increased in OVX-E2-OVA in comparison to F-INTACT-OVA following aerosolized intratracheal methacholine challenges. Immune phenotyping revealed that steady-state estrogen reduced CD3+ T cells, CD19+ B cells, ILC2 and eosinophils in the BAL across all experiments. While these commonly described allergic cells were reduced in the BAL, or airways, we found no changes in neutrophils, CD3+ T cells or CD19+ B cells in the remaining lung tissue. Similarly, inflammatory cytokines (IL-5 and IL-13) were also decreased in OVX-E2-OVA-treated animals in comparison to Female-INTACT-OVA mice in the BAL, but in the lung tissue IL-5, IL-13 and IL-33 were comparable in OVX-E2-OVA and F-INTACT OVA mice. ILC2 were sorted from the lungs and stimulated with exogenous IL-33. These ILC2 had reduced cytokine and chemokine expression when they were isolated from OVX-E2-OVA animals, indicating that steady-state estrogen suppresses IL-33-mediated activation of ILC2. Conclusions: Therapeutically targeting estrogen receptors may have a limiting effect on eosinophils, ILC2 and potentially other immune populations that may improve asthma symptoms in those females that experience perimenstrual worsening of asthma, with the caveat, that long-term use of estrogens or hormone receptor modulators may be detrimental to the lung microenvironment over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalBiology of Sex Differences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Endocrinology


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