BACKGROUND: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) has been suggested as an immunostimulating steroid hormone, of which the effects on the development of dendritic cells (DC) are unknown. The effects of DHEA often oppose those of the other adrenal glucocorticoid, cortisol. Glucocorticoids (GC) are known to suppress the immune response at different levels and have recently been shown to modulate the development of DC, thereby influencing the initiation of the immune response. Variations in the duration of exposure to, and doses of, GC (particularly dexamethasone (DEX)) however, have resulted in conflicting effects on DC development. AIM: In this study, we describe the effects of a continuous high level of exposure to the adrenal steroid DHEA (10 M) on the generation of immature DC from monocytes, as well as the effects of the opposing steroid DEX on this development. RESULTS: The continuous presence of DHEA (10 M) in GM-CSF/IL-4-induced monocyte-derived DC cultures resulted in immature DC with a morphology and functional capabilities similar to those of typical immature DC (T cell stimulation, IL-12/IL-10 production), but with a slightly altered phenotype of increased CD80 and decreased CD43 expression (markers of maturity). The continuous presence of DEX at a concentration of 10 M in the monocyte/DC cultures resulted in the generation of plastic-adherent macrophage-like cells in place of typical immature DC, with increased CD14 expression, but decreased expression of the typical DC markers CD1a, CD40 and CD80. These cells were strongly reactive to acid phosphatase, but equally capable of stimulating T cell proliferation as immature DC. The production of IL-12 by these macrophage-like cells was virtually shut down, whereas the production of IL-10 was significantly higher than that of control immature DC. CONCLUSION: The continuous presence of a high level of GC during the generation of immature DC from monocytes can modulate this development away from DC towards a macrophage-like cell. The combination of a low CD80 expression and a shutdown of IL-12 production suggests the possibility of DEX-generated cells initiating a Th2-biased response. These effects by DEX on DC development contrast with those by DHEA, which resulted in a more typical DC although possessing a phenotype possibly indicating a more mature state of the cell.

Anti-Inflammatory Agents/*pharmacology, Cells, Cultured, Dehydroepiandrosterone/pharmacology, Dendritic Cells/*drug effects, Dexamethasone/*pharmacology, Flow Cytometry, Humans, Interleukin-10/biosynthesis, Interleukin-12/biosynthesis, Lymphocyte Culture Test, Mixed, Monocytes/*drug effects, Phenotype, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't, T-Lymphocytes/drug effects
European Journal of Endocrinology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Canning, M.O, Grotenhuis, K, de Wit, H.J, & Drexhage, H.A. (2000). Opposing effects of dehydroepiandrosterone and dexamethasone on the generation of monocyte-derived dendritic cells. European Journal of Endocrinology. Retrieved from