Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 May;290(5):E856-63. Epub 2005 Dec 13.

Effect of medical castration on CD4+ CD25+ T cells, CD8+ T cell IFN-gamma expression, and NK cells: a physiological role for testosterone and/or its metabolites.

Author information

Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.


The higher prevalence of autoimmune disease among women compared with men suggests that steroids impact immune regulation. To investigate how sex steroids modulate cellular immune function, we conducted a randomized trial in 12 healthy men aged 35-55 yr treated for 28 days with placebo, a GnRH antagonist, acyline to induce medical castration, or acyline plus daily testosterone (T) gel to replace serum T, followed by a 28-day recovery period. Serum hormones were measured weekly and peripheral blood lymphocytes (PBLs) were collected biweekly for analyses of thymus-derived lymphocyte (T cell) subtypes and natural killer (NK) cells. Compared with the other groups and to baseline throughout the drug exposure period, men receiving acyline alone had significant reductions in serum T (near or below castrate levels), dihydrotestosterone, and estradiol (P < 0.05). Medical castration significantly reduced the percentage of CD4+ CD25+ T cells (P < 0.05), decreased mitogen-induced CD8+ T cell IFN-gamma expression, and increased the percentage of NK cells without affecting the ratio of CD4+ to CD8+ T cells and the expression of NK cell-activating receptor NKG2D or homing receptor CXCR1. No changes in immune composition were observed in subjects receiving placebo or acyline with replacement T. These data suggest that T and/or its metabolites may help maintain the physiological balance of autoimmunity and protective immunity by preserving the number of regulatory T cells and the activation of CD8+ T cells. In addition, sex steroids suppress NK cell proliferation. This study supports a complex physiological role for T and/or its metabolites in immune regulation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Publication types, MeSH terms, Substances, Grant support

Publication types

MeSH terms


Grant support

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Atypon
Loading ...
Support Center