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Pflugers Arch. 2012 Aug;464(2):205-15. doi: 10.1007/s00424-012-1131-x. Epub 2012 Jun 23.

Enhanced estradiol-induced vasorelaxation in aortas from type 2 diabetic mice may reflect a compensatory role of p38 MAPK-mediated eNOS activation.

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Department of Physiology and Morphology, Institute of Medicinal Chemistry, Hoshi University, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo, 142-8501, Japan.


Cardiovascular problems are a major cause of morbidity and mortality, mainly due to coronary artery disease and atherosclerosis, in type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, female gender is a protective factor in the development of, for example, atherosclerosis and hypertension. One of the female hormones, 17β-estradiol (E2), is known to protect against the cardiovascular injury resulting from endothelial dysfunction, but the mechanism by which it does so remains unknown. Our hypothesis was that E2-mediated activation of Akt and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), and the subsequent endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) phosphorylation, might protect the aorta in diabetic mellitus. The experimental type 2 diabetic model we employed to test that hypothesis (female mice given streptozotocin and nicotinamide) is here termed fDM. In fDM aortas, we examined the E2-induced relaxation response and the associated protein activities. In control (age-matched, nondiabetic) aortas, E2 induced a vascular relaxation response that was mediated via Akt/eNOS and mitogen-activated/ERK-activating kinase (MEK)/eNOS pathways. In fDM aortas (vs. control aortas), (a) the E2-induced relaxation was enhanced, (b) the mediation of the response was different (via Akt/eNOS and p38 MAPK/eNOS pathways), and (c) E2 stimulation increased p38 MAPK and eNOS phosphorylations, decreased MEK phosphorylation, but did not alter estrogen receptor activity. We infer that at least in fDM aortas, E2 has beneficial effects (enhanced vascular relaxation and protection) that are mediated through Akt activation and (compensating for reduced MEK activation) p38 MAPK activation, leading to enhanced eNOS phosphorylation.

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