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J Mol Endocrinol. 2012 Mar 12;48(2):R13-29. doi: 10.1530/JME-11-0145. Print 2012 Apr.

Estrogens and atherosclerosis: insights from animal models and cell systems.

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Center for Laboratory Medicine, University Hospital Münster, Albert Schweizer Campus 1, Gebäude A1, 48129 Münster, Germany.


Estrogens not only play a pivotal role in sexual development but are also involved in several physiological processes in various tissues including vasculature. While several epidemiological studies documented an inverse relationship between plasma estrogen levels and the incidence of cardiovascular disease and related it to the inhibition of atherosclerosis, an interventional trial showed an increase in cardiovascular events among postmenopausal women on estrogen treatment. The development of atherosclerotic lesions involves complex interplay between various pro- or anti-atherogenic processes that can be effectively studied only in vivo in appropriate animal models. With the advent of genetic engineering, transgenic mouse models of atherosclerosis have supplemented classical dietary cholesterol-induced disease models such as the cholesterol-fed rabbit. In the last two decades, these models were widely applied along with in vitro cell systems to specifically investigate the influence of estrogens on the development of early and advanced atherosclerotic lesions. The present review summarizes the results of these studies and assesses their contribution toward better understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying anti- and/or pro-atherogenic effects of estrogens in humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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