Title page for ETD etd-7997-11118

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Yin, Zhi-Jun
Author's Email Address WANGRONG@VT.EDU
URN etd-7997-11118
Title Effects of Long-Term Exposure of Normal C57bl/6j Inbred Mice to 17beta-Estradiol on Gene Expression in Lymphocytes: Mrna Analysis of Lymphokines and Bcl-2/Fas
Degree Master of Science
Department Biomedical Sciences and Pathobiology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Ahmed, S. Ansar
Crisman, Mark Virgil
Sriranganathan, Nammalwar Committee Chair
  • IL-4
  • TGF-beta
  • IFN-gamma
  • IL-2
  • cytokine
  • T cells
  • splenocytes
  • thymocytes
  • 17beta-estradiol(E2)
  • Fas
  • Bcl-2
  • autoimmune diseases
Date of Defense 1997-08-05
Availability restricted
It is now clear that human and animal exposure to estrogenic compound occurs through several sources. This include: i) naturally occurring endogenous estrogens, ii) exogenous or intentional estrogens for prophylactic (e.g. oral contraceptive) and therapeutic (e.g. as replacement therapy for ovulation in nulliparous women and in menopausal women, and in some men suffering from prostate cancer) purposes, iii) accidental via estrogenic chemical exposure (e.g. pesticides, industrial byproducts) and phytoestrogens (e.g. soybeans). It has long been recognized that estrogen, a female sex hormone, functions not only on the reproductive system, but also on various other systems including the immune system. Estrogens are thought to be of both physiologic and pathologic importance. Female in general, have better immune capabilities than males, a phenomenon attributed to the action of sex hormones on the immune system. There is also a female-gender bias in susceptibility to autoimmune diseases. Estrogens have been

linked either directly or indirectly to the etiology and pathogenesis of various female-predominant autoimmune diseases. Estrogens have also been linked to the onset of cancer, and conditions where the immune system often malfunctions. Estrogen affects the functions of both B and T cells, possibly by regulating such factors as lymphokine gene expression and/or cellular death by apoptosis. However, the functioning of both B and T cells under the influence of long-term exposure to estrogen has not been fully understood.

The primary aim of this thesis was to investigate the effect of long-term exposure to 17b-estradiol on lymphokine and bcl-2/fas (proto-oncogenes) mRNA expression. We evaluated the effects of estrogen on the expression of genes for lymphokines, which are essential for the immune response. It is hypothesized that estrogen may regulate the immune system by modifying the expression of lymphokine genes and/or genes that regulate apoptosis.

The results demonstrated that long-term 17b-estradiol exposure reduced the viability of lymphocytes when compared to lymphocytes from placebo-treated mice. IL-2 and IFN-g mRNA was consistently higher in ConA-stimulated lymphocytes from estrogen-treated mice (P < 0.05). The mRNA for TGF-b1 lymphokine was also increased but was not consistent at all time points of incubation. The expression of IL-4 mRNA was not noticeably affected by estrogen treatment of mice. Long-term exposure to 17b-estradiol appear to have some influence on the mRNA expression of proto-oncogenes fas and bcl-2 in splenic and thymic T lymphocytes. There was a trend of increased bcl-2 mRNA expression in estrogen-treated mice compared to placebo-treated mice, whereas the mRNA expression of fas gene appeared to be lower compared to controls. Overall, these findings suggest that 17b-estradiol may selectively influence lymphokine and proto-oncogene mRNA expression. These results suggest that the one mode of modulation of the immune response by 17b-estradiol may be through alterations in the lymphokine and proto-oncogene expression.

Since estrogen-treatment markedly induces atrophy of the thymus and diminishes the cellularity of the lymphoid organs (e.g. Spleen), it became necessary to perform multiple assays on the same cells, particularly lymphokine and apoptosis gene expression. A secondary objective of this thesis was to investigate whether lymphocytes, which have undergone proliferation in Lympho-Pro™ assay (Alamar Blue assay), could be utilized for further analysis. In this regard, we found that a non-radioactive assay that utilizes Alamar Blue had significant advantages over the conventional 3H-thymidine incorporation assay. By using cells from estrogen and placebo-treated mice in the Alamar Blue assay, we found that this assay not only allowed determination of lymphocyte proliferation, but also the assessment of mRNA expression, cytogenetics, apoptosis and immunophenotyping of the same lymphocytes.

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