Background: Estrogen has long been reported to show immunomodulatory effects on immune responses, yet, its specific anti-inflammatory mechanism is not clear. Methods: In this study, we analyzed the effects of β-estradiol (E2), at its contraceptive dose, on both T cell-independent and T cell-dependent inflammations, and the associated immune mechanism, in female mice. The T cell-independent inflammation was locally induced either with an intradermal injection of olive oil in the footpad, or by an intraperitoneal injection of proteose peptone (PP). The T cell-dependent inflammation was induced by an intraperitoneal injection of the purified protein derivatives (PPD). Results: While E2 inhibited olive oil-induced inflammation as monitored by the decrease in footpad swelling, it did not affect the gene expression of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 and IL-6 by cells at the inflammatory locus. E2 also inhibited PP-induced inflammation as monitored by the decrease in the number of inflammatory peritoneal exudate cells (PEC) coinciding with a marked decrease in the number of macrophages and granulocytes (Gr. 1+). While E2 did not affect the gene expression of monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 and IL-6 by PP-elicited PEC, it decreased both gene expression and production of TNF-α. E2 also decreased the number of cells expressing the lymphocyte function-activated protein-1 in PP-elicited PEC, but not for CD62L. In purified protein derivative-induced T cell-dependent inflammation, E2 decreased the total cellularity of PEC and the relative numbers of CD3+ and CD4+ T cells, and the number of cells expressing the lymphocyte activation markers CD40, CD44, CD69 and IL-2Rα in PEC. Furthermore, while E2 did not affect the gene expression of the early T lymphocyte activation protein-1 by PEC, it decreased the gene expression of INF-γ. Conclusion: Collectively, the results suggest that E2-mediated inhibition of inflammatory responses may be due to a combination of suppression of homing and activation of inflammatory cells and their production of TNF-α and IFN-γ.

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