Immunomodulation by the Female Sex Hormones

F.M. Menzies1, F.L. Henriquez1, *
1 Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, University of Strathclyde, 27 Taylor Street, Glasgow G4 0NR, UK
2 School of Science and Engineering, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley PA1 2BE, UK

© 2009 Menzies et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the School of Engineering and Science, University of the West of Scotland , 1 High Street , Paisley , PA1 2BE , Scotland, UK. Tel: 0044 141 848 3119 ; E-mail:


Pregnancy is a highly regulated process, requiring strict control of the immune system in order to prevent rejection of the semiallogenic foetus. One aspect of pregnancy immunology that has been of great interest is the influence of female sex and pregnancy associated hormones, such as progesterone and oestrogen, on cells of the immune system.

This review evaluates studies investigating the ability of these hormones to modulate the function of cells of both the innate and adaptive arms of the immune system and mechanisms by which immunity to infection can be altered due to increased levels of progesterone and oestrogen. Finally, the influence of pregnancy on the most common autoimmune diseases, on toxoplasmosis and on malaria is reviewed.