Vascular Sex Hormone Receptors and their Specific Modulators in the Management of Postmenopausal Cardiovascular Disease

do Nascimento, Graciliano R. A.; Barros, Yaskara V. R.; Wells, Amanda K.; Khalil, Raouf A.
November 2009
Current Hypertension Reviews;2009, Vol. 5 Issue 4, p283
Academic Journal
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is more common in men and postmenopausal women than premenopausal women, suggesting vascular benefits of female sex hormones. Studies on the vasculature have identified estrogen receptors ERa, ER� and a novel estrogen binding membrane protein GPR30, that mediate genomic and/or non-genomic effects. Estrogen promotes endothelium-dependent relaxation by inducing the production/activity of nitric oxide, prostacyclin, and hyperpolarizing factor, and inhibits the mechanisms of vascular smooth muscle contraction including [Ca[sup 2+]][sub i], protein kinase C, Rho kinase and mitogen-activated protein kinase. Additional effects of estrogen on the cytoskeleton, matrix metalloproteinases and inflammatory factors contribute to vascular remodeling. However, the experimental evidence did not translate into vascular benefits of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), and the HERS, HERS-II and WHI clinical trials demonstrated adverse cardiovascular events. The discrepancy has been partly related to delayed MHT and potential changes in the vascular ER amount, integrity, affinity, and downstream signaling pathways due to the subjects' age and preexisting CVD. The adverse vascular effects of MHT also highlighted the need of specific modulators of vascular sex hormone receptors. The effectiveness of MHT can be improved by delineating the differences in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of natural, synthetic, and conjugated equine estrogens. Estriol, "hormone bioidenticals" and phytoestrogens are potential estradiol substitutes. The benefits of low dose MHT, and transdermal or vaginal estrogens over oral preparations are being evaluated. Specific ER modulators (SERMs) and ER agonists are being developed to maximize the effects on vascular ERs. Also, the effects of estrogen are being examined in relation to the levels and effects of other sex hormones including progesterone and androgens. Thus, the experimental vascular benefits of estrogen can be translated to the outcome of MHT in postmenopausal CVD, as more specific modulators of sex hormone receptors become available and are used at the right dose, route of administration and timing, depending on the subject's age and preexisting cardiovascular condition.


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