Role of Sex Hormones in Metabolism and Immune System

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Researchers from Australia identified differences in the way the immune system isacting in the body fat of male and female mice.


  • Australian researchers studied the visceral adipose tissue (VAS), fat tissue in the mice.
  • The fat tissue is found in the abdominal region around various organs and also includes perigonadal VAT which includes fat tissuessurrounding the ovaries in females and testes in males.
  • The study showed an elevated expression of inflammatory genes in the male VAT than in the female VAT.
  • The male VAT had a special population of stromal cells which made the cytokine IL-33.
  • Many studies in the past considered VAT as an energy storage organ and have endocrine functions.
  • In endocrine function, VAT secretes adipokines and hormones that help in energy balance and metabolism

Controlling Immune Response by VAT

  • The study shows that the perigonadal VAT from male mice had many regulatory T cells (Treg) than of female mice.
  • The Treg cells help in controlling the immune response to the self and external cells.
  • The cells protect the body from autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • The Treg cells in the male mice showed a distinct phenotype, functional parameter, and gene expression compared to female cells.
  • The functioning of VAT in male mice and male humans is almost similar.
  • Both are susceptible to metabolic disease like type 2 diabetes than females.
  • In humans too, the inflammation of adipose tissue is higher in men than in women.
  • The human adipose tissue (omental) harbours Treg cells of a phenotype similar to that found in mice Treg cells.
  •  The study implies that the difference in the Treg cell distribution seen in VAT of males and females mice may hold in humans.


The study implies that the way the trials are conducted with animal models for research or disease will not hold equally good for male and female.  For example: when studying about metabolism or immunity diseases, male mice are used. Tailoring drugs to gender is a possibility in the future by conducting further research on the role of sex hormones in autoimmune, metabolic and inflammatory diseases.

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