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Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Jul;163(6):1163-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01366.x.

Unraveling the mechanisms underlying the rapid vascular effects of steroids: sorting out the receptors and the pathways.

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  • 1Vascular Biology Research Groups, Robarts Research Institute, London, ON, Canada.


Aldosterone, oestrogens and other vasoactive steroids are important physiological and pathophysiological regulators of cardiovascular and metabolic function. The traditional view of the cardiovascular actions of these vasoactive steroids has focused on their roles as regulators of transcription via activation of their 'classical' receptors [mineralocorticoid receptors (MR) and oestrogen receptors (ER)]. However, based on a series of observations going back more than half a century, scientists have speculated that a range of steroids, including oestrogen and aldosterone, might have effects on regulation of smooth muscle contractility, cell growth and differentiation that are too rapid to be accounted for by transcriptional regulation. Recent studies performed in our laboratories (and those of others) have begun to elucidate the mechanism of rapid steroid-mediated cardiometabolic regulation. GPR30, now designated as GPER-1 (, a newly characterized 'orphan receptor', has been implicated in mediating the rapid effects of estradiol and most recently those of aldosterone. Studies to date have taught us that to understand the rapid vascular mechanisms of steroids, one must (i) know which vascular 'compartment' the steroid is acting; (ii) know which receptor the steroid hormone is activating; and (iii) not assume the receptor specificity of a steroid receptor ligand based solely on its selectivity for its traditional 'transcriptional' steroid receptor. Our newfound appreciation of the rapid effects of steroids such as aldosterone and oestrogens opens up a new vista for advancing our understanding of the biology and pathobiology of vascular regulation.

© 2011 The Authors. British Journal of Pharmacology © 2011 The British Pharmacological Society.

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