Biochemical Genetics

, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 35–45 | Cite as

Gene Expression of ABHD6, a Key Factor in the Endocannabinoid System, Can Be Modulated by Female Hormones in Human Immune Cells

  • Manuela Nunes Drehmer
  • Yara Costa Netto Muniz
  • Andrea Rita Marrero
  • Sara Emelie LöfgrenEmail author
Original Article


One of the main risk factors for the development of an autoimmune disease is to be a woman. Much attention has been given to the involvement of female hormones in their etiology and sexual bias, although the mechanisms behind this potentially strong contribution in disease susceptibility are poorly understood. ABHD6 gene was recently identified as a risk factor for system lupus erythematosus and the risk was correlated with overexpression of the gene. ABHD6 is an enzyme that degrades the 2-arachidonoylglycerol, an endocannabinoid with immunomodulatory effects. Thus its degradation could contribute to immune dysregulation and development of autoimmune reactions. Sex hormones, such as estrogens, are believed to regulate important genes in the endocannabinoid pathway. However, no study was available regarding the effect of these hormones in human immune cells. In this study, ABHD6 expression was evaluated by quantitative PCR in leukocytes from healthy male and females and in the presence of estrogen or progesterone (PG). A statistical increase in ABHD6 expression could be detected in women. In the presence of estrogen or PG, a statistical upregulation of ABHD6 was observed, and in a sex-dependent manner, as only female cells responded to stimulation. Our results suggest that female hormones can promote the overexpression of ABHD6 in immune cells. This can potentially contribute to a pro-inflammatory scenario and partially explain the association of this gene in the development of LES, a highly female-biased disease.


ABHD6 Endocannabinoid system Sex hormones Autoimmune disease Gene expression 



The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This study was funded by CAPES (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior). Grant Number 23038.008120/2010-11.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interests

The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cell Biology, Embryology and Genetics, Centro de Ciências Biológicas (CCB)Federal University of Santa CatarinaFlorianópolisBrazil

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