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Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2012 Nov 15;303(10):L923-8. doi: 10.1152/ajplung.00023.2012. Epub 2012 Sep 21.

Estrogen effects on human airway smooth muscle involve cAMP and protein kinase A.

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Department of Physiology and Biomedical Engineering, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.


Clinically observed differences in airway reactivity and asthma exacerbations in women at different life stages suggest a role for sex steroids in modulating airway function although their targets and mechanisms of action are still being explored. We have previously shown that clinically relevant concentrations of exogenous estrogen acutely decrease intracellular calcium ([Ca(2+)](i)) in human airway smooth muscle (ASM), thereby facilitating bronchodilation. In this study, we hypothesized that estrogens modulate cyclic nucleotide regulation, resulting in decreased [Ca(2+)](i) in human ASM. In Fura-2-loaded human ASM cells, 1 nM 17β-estradiol (E(2)) potentiated the inhibitory effect of the β-adrenoceptor (β-AR) agonist isoproterenol (ISO; 100 nM) on histamine-mediated Ca(2+) entry. Inhibition of protein kinase A (PKA) activity (KT5720; 100 nM) attenuated E(2) effects on [Ca(2+)](i). Acute treatment with E(2) increased cAMP levels in ASM cells comparable to that of ISO (100 pM). In acetylcholine-contracted airways from female guinea pigs or female humans, E(2) potentiated ISO-induced relaxation. These novel data suggest that, in human ASM, physiologically relevant concentrations of estrogens act via estrogen receptors (ERs) and the cAMP pathway to nongenomically reduce [Ca(2+)](i), thus promoting bronchodilation. Activation of ERs may be a novel adjunct therapeutic avenue in reactive airway diseases in combination with established cAMP-activating therapies such as β(2)-agonists.

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