Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2022


Parabens are used to prevent bacterial growth and are commonly found in cosmetics and personal care products. The structure of parabens is similar to estrogen and can cause increased estrogen activity which unfortunately has been linked to breast cancer. Parabens are endocrine disrupting compounds, which means they disrupt many hormone-regulated systems and could contribute to immune dysfunctions, reproductive disorders, birth defects, or developmental and behavioral disorders. One example of an effect on the immune system is that estrogen regulates CD4 T cell differentiation during pregnancy to induce anti-inflammatory Th2 and Treg phenotypes and reduce the differentiation of inflammatory Th1 and Th17 phenotypes. However, parabens also skew Th2 and Treg phenotypes in the absence of pregnancy and this inhibits the induction of strong anti-tumor immune responses. Therefore, safer antimicrobial products are needed. Gallate esters have similar antimicrobial activity as parabens, but their structure differs so that they do not mimic estrogen and may not have endocrine disrupting effects. In this project, we determined if gallate esters affected CD4 T cell differentiation. Gallate esters with different carbon chain lengths were directly compared to also determine if the size of the carbon chain altered their activity. Murine CD4 T cells were cultured with gallate esters with 1-8, 10, and 12 carbon chain lengths, methyl- and butylparaben, estrogen, or DMSO. While estrogen and parabens skewed T cell differentiation towards anti-inflammatory Th2 and Treg phenotypes as measured by cytokine secretion and gene expression of transcription factors, the gallate esters did not alter CD4 T cell differentiation. Therefore, use of gallate esters as antimicrobial agents instead of parabens may be a safer option due to their reduced effects on the immune response.


Faculty Advisor: Dr. Amorette Barber and Dr. Andrew Yeagley

Committee Members: Dr. Jonathan White (Longwood University), Dr. Denis Trubitsyn (Longwood University), and Dr. Kristian Hargadon (Hampden-Sydney College)

Included in

Biology Commons



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