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PLoS One. 2009;4(5):e5539. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0005539. Epub 2009 May 18.

Estradiol regulates expression of estrogen receptor ERalpha46 in human macrophages.

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  • 1Department of Physiology, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, New Hampshire, United States of America.



Monocytes and macrophages are key innate immune effector cells that produce cytokines and chemokines upon activation. We and others have shown that 17beta-estradiol (E2) has a direct role in the modulation of monocyte and macrophage immune function. However, relatively little is known about the ability of E2 to regulate isoform expression of estrogen receptors (ERs) in these cells.


In this study, we quantify expression of ERalpha and ERbeta in human monocytes and macrophages. We also show for the first time that the N-terminal truncated ERalpha variant, ERalpha46, is expressed in both cell types. Promoter utilization studies reveal that transcription of ERalpha in both cell types occurs from upstream promoters E and F. Treatment with E2 induces ERalpha expression in macrophages but has no effect on ERbeta levels in either cell type. During monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation, ERalpha is upregulated in a time-dependent manner. Previous studies by our group demonstrated that E2 treatment attenuates production of the chemokine CXCL8 in an ER-dependent manner. We now show that ERalpha expression levels parallel the ability of E2 to suppress CXCL8 production.


This work demonstrates for the first time that human macrophages predominantly express the truncated ER variant ERalphap46, which is estradiol-inducible. This is mediated through usage of the ERalpha F promoter. Alternative promoter usage may account for tissue and cell type-specific differences in estradiol-induced effects on gene expression. These studies signify the importance of ERalpha expression and regulation in the ability of E2 to modulate innate immune responses.

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