Estrogen-dependent seasonal adaptations in the immune response of fish

Ewa Szwejser, Lidy van Kemenade, Magdalena Maciuszek, Magdalena Chadzinska*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Clinical and experimental evidence shows that estrogens affect immunity in mammals. Less is known about this interaction in the evolutionary older, non-mammalian, vertebrates. Fish form an excellent model to identify evolutionary conserved neuroendocrine-immune interactions: i) they are the earliest vertebrates with fully developed innate and adaptive immunity, ii) immune and endocrine parameters vary with season, and iii) physiology is constantly disrupted by increasing contamination of the aquatic environment.Neuro-immuno-endocrine interactions enable adaption to changing internal and external environment and are based on shared signaling molecules and receptors. The presence of specific estrogen receptors on/in fish leukocytes, implies direct estrogen-mediated immunoregulation. Fish leukocytes most probably are also capable to produce estrogens as they express the . cyp19a and . cyp19b - genes, encoding aromatase cytochrome P450, the enzyme critical for conversion of C19 steroids to estrogens.Immunoregulatory actions of estrogens, vary among animal species, and also with dose, target cell type, or physiological condition (e.g., infected/non-infected, reproductive status). They moreover are multifaceted. Interestingly, season-dependent changes in immune status correlate with changes in the levels of circulating sex hormones. Whereas E2 circulating in the bloodstream is perhaps the most likely candidate to be the physiological mediator of systemic immune-reproductive trade-offs, leukocyte-derived hormones are hypothesized to be mainly involved in local tuning of the immune response. Contamination of the aquatic environment with estrogenic EDCs may violate the delicate and precise allostatic interactions between the endogenous estrogen system and the immune system. This has negative effects on fish health, but will also affect the physiology of its consumers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-24
JournalHormones and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Aromatase
  • Endocrine disrupting compounds
  • Estrogen receptors
  • Estrogens
  • Fish
  • Season

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