Differential sex-specific liability to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and changes in symptom severity in association with physiological fluctuations in gonadal secretions are indicative of significant contribution of sex hormones to the regulation of immune responsiveness. Apart from a postulated role in sex-specific organization of the immune system during ontogeny, gonadal steroids may influence the immune response in numerous ways. This review analyzes existing concepts, experimental and clinical data, aiming at the definition of cellular and molecular mechanisms which may serve as suitable targets for discovery of immunomodulatory drugs whose principal feature is specific interaction with sex hormone receptors. Separation of immunomodulatory effects of sex steroids from those which are exerted by glucocorticoids, and subsequent identification of sex-hormone-specific molecular targets appear to be crucial for the justification of drug discovery on the basis of sex steroid receptor ligands.
Keywords: sex hormones, steroid hormones, progestins, expression, testosterone, peripheral blood mononuclear cells
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