There are little data on modulatory effects of estrogens on rat dendritic cell (DC) responses to inflammatory stimuli, and consequently their ability to activate and polarize CD4+ T lymphocyte-mediated immune responses. Splenic conventional DCs from young female Albino Oxford rats were activated in vitro with LPS (TLR4 agonist) or R848 (TLR7/8 agonist) in the presence and absence of 17β-estradiol (E2), and their allostimulatory and CD4+ lymphocyte polarizing ability in mixed leukocyte culture (MLC) were studied. Irrespective of the E2 presence, LPS and R848 up-regulated the expression of MHC II on DCs, so they exhibited enhanced allostimulatory capacity in co-culture with CD4+ lymphocytes. On the other hand, E2 promoted stimulatory action of both TLRs on OX62+ DC IL-23 production, augmented their stimulatory effects on IL-6 and IL-1β production, but diminished their enhancing effects on the expression IL-10 and IL-27 by DCs. Consequently, in MLC, OX62+ DCs activated/matured in the co-presence of E2 and either LPS or R848 increased the levels of IL-17, the signature Th17 cell cytokine, when compared with those activated/matured in the absence of E2. GM-CSF levels were also increased in these MLC. Given that the expression of IL-7 mRNA was diminished in DCs activated/matured in the co-presence of E2 and TLR, this increase most likely did not reflect enhanced differentiation of Th cells producing GM-CSF only (Th-GM).Conclusions
E2 augments capacity of LPS- and R848-activated/matured DCs from young rat spleen to induce differentiation of IL-17- and GM-CSF-producing cells.