Human vascular smooth muscle cells contain functional estrogen receptor.
BACKGROUND The decreased incidence of coronary artery disease observed in postmenopausal women given estrogen (E2) replacement demonstrates an atheroprotective effect of E2 that is generally believed to be mediated by indirect, E2-induced changes in cardiovascular risk factor profiles. We hypothesized that the atheroprotective effect of E2 may be in part mediated by a direct effect of E2 on vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs). Therefore, a series of experiments was performed to determine whether human VSMCs contain a competent E2 receptor, a ligand-activated transcription factor known to mediate E2-induced effects in nonvascular cells.
METHODS AND RESULTS Ribonuclease protection assays, with a probe derived from the human E2 receptor, were used to demonstrate E2-receptor mRNA in human saphenous vein VSMCs. To show that VSMCs contain E2-receptor protein as well as message, immunoblotting and immunofluorescence studies with a monoclonal anti-E2-receptor antibody were performed, and E2-receptor protein was detected by both methods. Transient transfection assays using a specific E2-responsive reporter system were used next to determine whether the VSMC E2 receptor is capable of E2-induced transcriptional transactivation. Initial studies using mammary artery-derived VSMCs resulted in a 2.4-fold increase in reporter activity in response to 10(-7) mol/L E2. Subsequent studies using saphenous vein VSMCs demonstrated increasing levels of reporter activation as the concentration of E2 was increased from 10(-9) mol/L (1.3-fold increase; SEM, 0.07; P = .05, n = 3) to 10(-7) mol/L (1.6-fold increase; SEM, 0.04; P = .002, n = 6). The specificity of the E2-induced transactivation of the reporter gene was shown by dose-dependent inhibition of transactivation by the pure E2 antagonist ICI 164,384 and by enhancement of the transactivation by simultaneous overexpression of the E2 receptor.
CONCLUSIONS We have demonstrated for the first time that human VSMCs express E2-receptor mRNA and protein and that the E2 receptor in VSMCs is capable of estrogen-dependent gene activation. These data suggest a mechanism by which estrogen may directly alter VSMC function.
- Copyright © 1994 by American Heart Association