Complete knockout of estrogen receptor alpha is not directly protective in murine lupus

Jennifer L. Scott, Jena R. Wirth, Jackie Eudaly, Phil Ruiz, Melissa A. Cunningham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic and potentially severe autoimmune disease that disproportionately affects women. Despite a known role for hormonal factors impacting autoimmunity and disease pathogenesis, the specific mechanisms of action remain poorly understood. Our laboratory previously backcrossed “estrogen receptor alpha knockout (ERαKO)” mice onto the NZM2410 lupus prone background to generate NZM/ERαKO mice. This original ERαKO mouse, developed in the mid-1990s and utilized in hundreds of published studies, is not in fact ERα null. They express an N-terminally truncated ERα, and are considered a functional KO. They have physiologic deficiencies including infertility due to disruption of a critical activation domain (AF-1) at the N terminus of ERα, required for most classic estrogen (E2) actions. We demonstrated that female NZM/ERαKO mice had significantly less renal disease and significantly prolonged survival compared to WT littermates despite similar serum levels of autoantibodies and glomerular immune complex deposition. Herein, we present results of experiments using a lupus prone true ERα −/− mice (deletional KO mice on the NZM2410 background), surprisingly finding that these animals were not protected if they were ovariectomized, even if E2-repleted, suggesting that another hormonal component confers protection, possibly testosterone, rather than the absence of the full-length ERα.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)132-141
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Immunology
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Autoantibody
  • Estrogen
  • Estrogen receptor alpha
  • Lupus
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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