Sex-based disparities have been identified in respiratory physiology, and in many chronic lung diseases including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis. The observed sex differences in lung disease prevalence and incidence have been linked to changes in circulating levels of sex hormones that start after puberty and that have been shown to affect physiological and immunological functions. While the exact roles of male and female sex hormones in these processes have not been fully elucidated, it is now evident that these can target many lung cell types and affect several functions of the respiratory system. In this mini-review, we have summarized seminal studies aimed to understand the effects of the most relevant male and female sex hormones (estrogens, progesterone, and androgens) and their receptors on lung function. Moreover, we have reviewed the known influences of sex hormones and of the hypothalamic–pituitary–gonadal axis in lung disease and immunity. Understanding the roles of sex hormones in the regulation of lung function and inflammation is the first step for the potential development of more effective therapeutic options to prevent and treat lung disease in men and women. Impact statement: Sex-differences in the incidence and severity of inflammatory lung diseases have been recognized for years. Women of reproductive age are more likely to suffer from chronic lung disease, with higher mortality rates than men. Physiological changes in hormone levels such as those occurring during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause have been associated with lung function changes and asthma symptoms. Despite this, the roles of sex hormones in the mechanisms associated with lung diseases have not been fully elucidated. This review summarizes basic and clinical studies of sex hormones as potential modulators of lung function and inflammation. The information obtained from sex-specific research on lung physiology and pathology will potentially help in the development of sex-specific therapeutics for inflammatory lung disease that may account for the hormonal status of the patient.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)