Research Papers: Immunology:

Coumestrol inhibits autoantibody production through modulating Th1 response in experimental autoimmune thyroiditis

Xiaojing Jin, Shujun Wang, Xuemin Zhao, Qian Jin, Chenling Fan, Jing Li _, Zhongyan Shan and Weiping Teng

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:52797-52809. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.10353

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Xiaojing Jin1,3,*, Shujun Wang2,*, Xuemin Zhao1, Qian Jin1, Chenling Fan1, Jing Li1, Zhongyan Shan1 and Weiping Teng1

1 Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Institute of Endocrinology, The First Affiliated Hospital, China Medical University, Liaoning Provincial Key Laboratory of Endocrine Diseases, Shenyang, P. R. China

2 Department of Pharmaceutics, School of Pharmacy, Shenyang Pharmaceutical University, Shenyang, P. R. China

3 Present address: Department of Emergency, The First Affiliated Hospital of Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang, P.R. China

* These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Jing Li, email:

Keywords: autoimmunity; thyroiditis; coumestrol; phytoestrogen; T helper cell; Immunology and Microbiology Section; Immune response; Immunity

Received: January 29, 2016 Accepted: June 15, 2016 Published: June 30, 2016


Coumestrol is a common phytoestrogen found in plants and Chinese medicinal herbs. Its influences on experimental autoimmune thyroiditis (EAT) were investigated in this study. Female adult CBA/J mice were fed with drinking water containing 1% Tween80 only (Control group), 0.8 mg/l (L group) and 8 mg/l coumestrol (H group) from 6 to 15 weeks of age, respectively. Their serum coumestrol concentrations were determined by high performance liquid chromatography, which were undetectable, 43.70 ± 21.74 ng/ml and 135.07 ± 70.40 ng/ml, respectively. In addition, the mice (n = 14–16/group) were immunized twice with thyroglobulin (Tg) and Freund’s adjuvant to induce EAT during the meantime. Although no overt changes in the extent of intrathyroidal mononuclear cell infiltration were shown in the two coumestrol-treated groups as compared with the controls, serum anti-Tg IgG2a, IgG3 and IgG1 titers, ratio of IgG2a to IgG1 and the percentage of T helper (Th)1 cells in the splenocytes were significantly reduced in the L group. Another consistent change was the significantly decreased expression of splenic IFN-γ mRNA after low dose of coumestrol exposure. Uterine weight was also markedly reduced in the mice of L group. These findings suggest that coumestrol treatment may have some beneficial actions against thyroid-specific autoantibody production in the development of autoimmune thyroiditis through suppression of Th1 response due to its anti-estrogenic activity.

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