Dual effects of testosterone in Behcet's disease: implications for a role in disease pathogenesis

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Behcet's disease (BD) exhibits more severe disease course and higher mortality among male patients. However, underlying mechanisms of gender differences in clinical manifestations and disease severity are unclear. The aim of this study was to determine whether testosterone (T) has any role on BD pathogenesis. We studied peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and neutrophils of BD patients and controls. Functional assay of neutrophils, cytokine measurements of culture supernatants and gene expressions on both cells were analyzed before and after T incubation. Neutrophils were significantly activated after incubation with T in only BD patients. Incubation with T caused significantly elevated interleukin (IL)-12 and IL-2 in BD. Gene expression of IL-10 was significantly downregulated after incubation with T in BD, especially in male patients. The same difference was observed in IL-10 levels in culture supernatant after T. Baseline TLR4 expression was significantly higher in BD patients compared to healthy donors (HC). Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 expression on PBMC was significantly elevated in female BD patients. ERAP1 expressions of all patients and controls were decreased under the T effect but it differed significantly between BD vs HC. Baseline IL23R expression was higher in BD males compared with females but the difference disappeared after T. When BD patients were analyzed separately, baseline C-C motif chemokine receptor1 (CCR1), STAT4, TLR4 and KLRC4 expressions were lower in males. Despite immunosuppressive behavior in healthy subjects, T causes neutrophil hyperactivation and TH1 type immune alterations in BD patients. Our results suggest that T may have a role in BD pathogenesis by altering the expression level of IL-10, TLR4, ERAP1, CCR1.

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