In recent years, researchers have demonstrated that estrogen and its receptors, aside from their role in regulating several biological functions, contribute to the development and progression/severity of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs). IBDs include both ulcerative colitis (UC) and Crohn’s disease (CD). Epidemiological data indicate a clear difference in the incidence, severity, and complications of IBDs between sexes. Men present a higher risk of developing colitis than women and a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, a common complication of this condition. However, fluctuations of estrogen levels have yielded inconsistent data, where oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy have been associated with an increased risk of IBDs in premenopausal women but significantly reduce disease activity after menopause. Likewise, improvement of symptoms related to CD has been reported during pregnancy, but not in UC, who often experience worsening symptoms. In the colonic epithelium, estrogen receptor β (ERβ) is the predominant form of the protein expressed, and it helps maintain normal epithelial function and organization. Preclinical data suggest that ER expression and activation via estrogen confers different responses on disease severity depending on the model used to induce colitis, which may reflect what is observed in patients with IBDs. Hence, this review aims to provide an overview of estrogen and its receptors, particularly ERβ, in the pathophysiology of IBDs.
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society.