Widening the gender gap

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  • DOI:10.1038/nri2045 Why are females generally more sus-

    ceptible to developing autoimmune diseases? A new study in The Journal of Experimental Medicine indicates that the answer might lie in the expression levels of the nuclear recep-tor peroxisome-proliferator-activated receptor- (PPAR) in T cells.

    PPAR is a nuclear hormone receptor that acts as a ligand-activated transcription factor. It regulates whole-body lipid and glucose homeostasis and, in immune cells, inhibits inflammatory pathways by repressing the activity of the tran-scription factors nuclear factor-B (NF-B) and JUN, which promote T helper 1 (TH 1)-cell differentia-tion. As a more prominent role for PPAR has been reported for the regulation of lipid metabolism in male rodents compared with female rodents, Dunn et al. asked whether this gender dichotomy might extend to include the anti-inflammatory activities of PPAR.

    They examined the clinical course of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE; a TH1-cell-mediated mouse model of multiple sclerosis) in male and female wild-type versus PPAR-deficient mice. Ppara/ male mice developed more severe EAE than deficient female mice, compared with their wild-type counterparts. Further analysis indicated that T cells from the male Ppara/ mice were hyperresponsive

    to T-cell-receptor stimulation and triggered an earlier onset of EAE than T cells from female Ppara/ mice. Therefore, it seems that intrinsic differences in T cells between the male and female mice contributed to the more severe acute EAE that developed in the male Ppara/ mice.

    PPAR expression was higher in CD4+ T cells from male wild-type mice than those from female wild-type mice at both the mRNA and protein levels. The expression of PPAR was also shown to be sensitive to the androgenic hormone testosterone: expression of PPAR was reduced in male mice by castration and increased in female mice following treatment with a testosterone metabolite. As expected, PPAR expression repressed the

    binding of NF-B and JUN to DNA in T cells; T cells from Ppara/ male mice produced higher levels of the TH1 cytokines interferon- (IFN) and tumour-necrosis factor (TNF), and lower levels of TH2 cytokines.

    So, males could be less prone to developing TH1-cell-mediated autoimmune responses owing to their higher androgen levels, which drives the expression of PPAR in T cells; this could help to explain the increased susceptibility of females to developing autoimmune diseases.

    Sharon Ahmad

    ORIGINAL RESEARCH PAPER Dunn, S. E. et al. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR) expression in T cells mediates gender differences in development of T cell-mediated autoimmunity. J. Exp. Med. 29 January 2007 (doi:10.1084/jem.20061839)

    A U TO I M M U N I T Y

    Widening the gender gap

    R E S E A R C H H I G H L I G H T S

    NATURE REVIEWS | IMMUNOLOGY VOLUME 7 | MARCH 2007 2007 Nature Publishing Group

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