The vasculoprotective effects of sex hormones, particularly estrogens, have been attributed to their ability to increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide through activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). To dissect the relative contribution in vivo of eNOS, sex hormones, and their interaction in two complex vascular phenotypes, hypertension and atherosclerosis, we used mice doubly deficient in eNOS and apoE (nnee) or lacking only apoE (NNee). Females and males were gonadectomized at 1 month of age and implanted either with control pellets or pellets releasing 17beta-estradiol (E2). Hormonally intact nnee mice have elevated blood pressure (BP) and increased atherosclerosis compared with NNee mice, but on removal of gonads, BP and atherosclerosis decreased significantly in nnee mice but not in NNee mice. Three months of treatment with exogenous E2 dramatically reduced atherosclerosis and significantly lowered BP in both NNee and nnee mice compared with animals treated with control pellets. Thus exogenous E2 has strong BP-lowering and atheroprotective effects in apoE-deficient mice, but eNOS is not essential for either effect. Endogenous sex hormones, on the other hand, cause significant damage to the vasculature in the absence of eNOS, but these effects are overridden by interactions between eNOS and sex hormones.
View details for DOI 10.1172/JC1200214066
View details for Web of Science ID 000173965900016
View details for PubMedID 11854327