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Front Horm Res. 2017;48:121-132. doi: 10.1159/000452911. Epub 2017 Feb 28.

Steroids and Autoimmunity.


From the middle of the 19th century, it is known that endocrine and immune systems interact bi-directionally in different processes that ensure organism homeostasis. Endocrine and nervous systems have a pivotal role in the balancing of pro- and anti-inflammatory functions of immune system, and constitute a complex circadian neuroendocrine network. Autoimmune diseases have in fact a complex pathogenic origin in which the importance of endocrine system was demonstrated. In this chapter, we will mention the structure and function of steroidal hormones involved in the neuroendocrine immune network and we will address the ways in which endocrine and immune systems influence each other, in a bi-directional fashion. Adrenal hormones, sex hormones, vitamin D, and melatonin and prolactin importantly all contribute to the homeostasis of the immune system. Indeed, some of the steroidal hormone activities determine inhibition or stimulation of immune system components, in both physiological (i.e. suppression of an unwanted response in pregnancy, or stimulation of a protective response in infections) and pathological conditions. We will finally mention the rationale for optimization of exogenous administration of glucocorticoids in chronic autoimmune diseases, and the latest developments concerning these drugs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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