Natural killing by mouse spleen cells can be stimulated in vivo by interferon or by agents that stimulate interferon, such as poly I·C. Natural killing can be suppressed in vivo by the sustained administration of 17β-estradiol. In BALB/c mice that had been treated with 17β-estradiol for 10 weeks, natural killing did not respond to intravenous poly I·C, although stimulation of circulating interferon was equal to controls. Estradiol, then, does not block interferon production but does suppress the response of natural killer cells to interferon. It is suggested that estrogens either block the maturation of natural killer cells or reduce the number of natural killer cell precursors.
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