BioScience Trends. 2015;9(6):350-359. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2015.01154)

Dehydroepiandrosterone improves the ovarian reserve of women with diminished ovarian reserve and is a potential regulator of the immune response in the ovaries.

Zhang JL, Qiu XM, Gui YY, Xu YP, Li DJ, Wang L


Diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) has a high morbidity rate worldwide and has become a primary cause of infertility. DOR is a daunting obstacle in in vitro fertilization (IVF) and leads to poor ovarian response, high cancellation rates, poor IVF outcomes, and low pregnancy rates. Abnormal autoimmune function may also contribute to DOR. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a C19 androgenic steroid. DHEA is secreted mainly by the adrenal gland, and its secretion declines with age. DHEA has a pro-inflammatory immune function that opposes cortisol. The cortisol to DHEA ratio increases with age, which may lead to decreased immune function. DHEA supplementation helps improve this situation. A number of clinical case control studies and several prospective randomized clinical trials have observed a positive effect of DHEA supplementation in women with DOR. However, the underlying mechanism by which DHEA improves ovarian reserve remains unclear. DHEA functions as an immune regulator in many different tissues in mammals and may also play an important role in regulating the immune response in the ovaries. The conversion of DHEA to downstream sex steroids may allow it to regulate the immune response there. DHEA can also enhance the Th1 immune response and regulate the balance of the Th1/Th2 response. DHEA treatment can increase selective T lymphocyte infiltration in mice, resulting in a decline in the CD4+ T lymphocyte population and an upregulation of the CD8+ T lymphocyte population in ovarian tissue, thus regulating the balance of CD4+/CD8+ T cells. This review mainly focuses on how DHEA supplementation affects regulation of the immune response in the ovaries.

KEYWORDS: Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), immune response, cytokine, lymphocytes, endocrino-immune network

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