Aromatase-deficient mice spontaneously develop a lymphoproliferative autoimmune disease resembling Sjögren's syndrome

Gil Jin Shim, Margaret Warner, Hyun Jin Kim, Sandra Andersson, Lining Liu, Jenny Ekman, Otabek Imamov, Margaret E. Jones, Evan R. Simpson, Jan Åke Gustafsson

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123 Scopus citations


Sjögren's syndrome (SS) is an incurable, autoimmune exocrinopathy that predominantly affects females and whose pathogenesis remains unknown. Like rheumatoid arthritis, its severity increases after menopause, and estrogen deficiency has been implicated. We have reported that estrogen receptor-α and -β-knockout mice develop autoimmune nephritis and myeloid leukemia, respectively, but neither develops SS. One model of estrogen deficiency in rodents is the aromatase-knockout (ArKO) mouse. In these animals, there is elevated B lymphopoiesis in bone marrow. We now report that ArKO mice develop severe autoimmune exocrinopathy resembling SS. By 1 year of age, there is B cell hyperplasia in the bone marrow, spleen, and blood of ArKO mice and spontaneous autoimmune manifestations such as proteinuria and severe leukocyte infiltration in the salivary glands and kidney. Also, as is typically found in human SS, there were proteolytic fragments of α-fodrin in the salivary glands and anti-α-fodrin antibodies in the serum of both female and male ArKO mice. When mice were raised on a phytoestrogen-free diet, there was a mild but significant incidence of infiltration of B lymphocytes in WT mice and severe destructive autoimmune lesions in ArKO mice. In age-matched WT mice fed a diet containing normal levels of phytoestrogen, there were no autoimmune lesions. These results reveal that estrogen deficiency results in a lymphoproliferative autoimmune disease resembling SS and suggest that estrogen might have clinical value in the prevention or treatment of this disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12628-12633
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number34
StatePublished - Aug 24 2004


  • Autoantibody
  • Autoimmune exocrinopathy
  • B lymphocytes
  • Bone marrow
  • Salivary gland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • General


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