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Arthritis Rheumatol. 2014 Jan;66(1):163-72. doi: 10.1002/art.38187.

Estrogen receptor α regulates tripartite motif-containing protein 21 expression, contributing to dysregulated cytokine production in systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.



To examine the role of 17β-estradiol in the regulation of the autoantigen tripartite motif-containing protein 21 (TRIM-21) in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).


Monocytes isolated from healthy control subjects and patients with SLE were stimulated with 17β-estradiol and/or the estrogen receptor α (ERα) antagonist methyl-piperidino-pyrazole dihydrochloride. TRIM-21, ERα, and CREMα expression was determined by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. MatInspector software was used to identify putative binding sites within the TRIM-21 promoter. ERα binding to the TRIM-21 gene promoter region in monocytes was analyzed by chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) assay. TRIM-21 and interferon regulatory factor 3 protein levels were analyzed by Western blotting.


Real-time PCR analysis demonstrated a role of estrogen in the regulation of TRIM-21 expression in monocytes, which correlated positively with ERα gene expression in patients with SLE. Investigations into the human TRIM-21 promoter revealed the presence of an estrogen response element, with ChIP assays confirming ERα binding to this site. Studies into estrogen-induced TRIM-21 expression revealed a hyperresponsiveness of SLE patients to 17β-estradiol, which led to the enhanced levels of TRIM-21 observed in these individuals.


Our results demonstrate a role of estrogen in the regulation of TRIM-21 expression through an ERα-dependent mechanism, a pathway that we observed to be overactive in SLE patients. Treatment of monocytes with an ERα antagonist abrogated estrogen-induced TRIM-21 expression and, as a consequence, decreased the expression of interleukin-23. These findings identify TRIM-21 as a novel ERα-regulated gene and provide novel insights into the link between estrogen and the molecular pathogenesis of SLE.

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