Novel mechanism for estrogen receptor alpha modulation of murine lupus

Melissa A. Cunningham, Mara Lennard Richard, Jena R. Wirth, Jennifer L. Scott, Jackie Eudaly, Phil Ruiz, Gary S. Gilkeson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Female sex is a risk factor for lupus. Sex hormones, sex chromosomes and hormone receptors are implicated in the pathogenic pathways in lupus. Estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) knockout (KO) mice are used for defining hormone receptor effects in lupus. Prior studies of ERα KO in lupus have conflicting results, likely due to sex hormone levels, different lupus strains and different ERα KO constructs. Our objective was to compare a complete KO of ERα vs. the original functional KO of ERα (expressing a short ERα) on disease expression and immune phenotype, while controlling sex hormone levels. We studied female lupus prone NZM2410 WT and ERα mutant mice. All mice (n = 44) were ovariectomized (OVX) for hormonal control. Groups of each genotype were estrogen (E2)-repleted after OVX. We found that OVXed NZM mice expressing the truncated ERα (ERα short) had significantly reduced nephritis and prolonged survival compared to both wildtype and the complete ERαKO (ERα null) mice, but surprisingly only if E2-repleted. ERα null mice were not protected regardless of E2 status. We observed significant differences in splenic B cells and dendritic cells and a decrease in cDC2 (CD11b+CD8 ) dendritic cells, without a concomitant decrease in cDC1 (CD11b-CD8a+) cells comparing ERα short to ERα null or WT mice. Our data support a protective role for the ERα short protein. ERα short is similar to an endogenously expressed ERα variant (ERα46). Modulating its expression/activity represents a potential approach for treating female-predominant autoimmune diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-69
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Autoimmunity
StatePublished - Feb 2019


  • Dendritic cells
  • Estrogen receptor alpha
  • Hormones
  • Lupus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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