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Endocrinology. 2004 Dec;145(12):5532-9. Epub 2004 Aug 19.

Genistein acutely stimulates nitric oxide synthesis in vascular endothelial cells by a cyclic adenosine 5'-monophosphate-dependent mechanism.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa and Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Iowa City, Iowa 52246, USA.


Genistein may improve vascular function, but the mechanism of this effect is unclear. We tested the hypothesis that genistein directly regulates vascular function through stimulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthesis. Genistein activated endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) in intact bovine aortic endothelial cells and human umbilical vein endothelial cells over an incubation period of 10 min. The maximal eNOS activity was at 1 microm genistein. Consistent with this activation pattern, 1 microm genistein maximally stimulated the phosphorylation of eNOS at serine 1179 at 10 min of incubation. The rapid activation of eNOS by genistein was not dependent on RNA transcription or new protein synthesis and was not blocked by a specific estrogen receptor antagonist. In addition, inhibition of MAPK or phosphatidylinositol 3-OH kinase/Akt kinase had no affect on eNOS activation by genistein. Furthermore, the genistein effect on eNOS was also independent of tyrosine kinase inhibition. However, inhibition of cAMP-dependent kinase [protein kinase A (PKA)] by H89 completely abolished the genistein-stimulated eNOS activation and phosphorylation, suggesting that genistein acted through a PKA-dependent pathway. These findings demonstrated that genistein had direct nongenomic effects on eNOS activity in vascular endothelial cells, leading to eNOS activation and nitric oxide synthesis. These effects were mediated by PKA and were unrelated to an estrogenic effect. This cellular mechanism may underlie some of the cardiovascular protective effects proposed for soy phytoestrogens.

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