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Eur J Pharmacol. 2018 Mar 15;823:41-48. doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2018.01.051. Epub 2018 Jan 31.

Gonadal hormone receptors underlie the resistance of female rats to inflammatory and cardiovascular complications of endotoxemia.

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Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Alexandria University, Alexandria, Egypt.
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of Pharmacy, Alexandria University, Alexandria, Egypt. Electronic address:


The male gender is more vulnerable to immunological complications of sepsis. Here, we tested the hypotheses that female rats are protected against endotoxemia-evoked hypotension and cardiac autonomic dysfunction, and that gonadal hormone receptors account for such protection. Changes in blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiac sympathovagal balance caused by i.v. lipopolysaccharide (LPS) were determined. In male rats, LPS elevated serum TNFα together with falls in blood pressure and rises in heart rate. The spectral index of cardiac sympathovagal balance (low-frequency/high-frequency ratio, LF/HF) was reduced by LPS, suggesting an enhanced parasympathetic dominance. Remarkably, none of these LPS effects was evident in female rats. We also report that pretreatment of female rats with fulvestrant (nonselective estrogen receptor blocker), PHTPP (estrogen receptor β blocker), or mifepristone (progesterone receptor blocker) uncovered clear inflammatory (increased serum TNFα), hypotensive and tachycardic responses to LPS. However, these female rats, contrary to their male counterparts, exhibited increases in LF/HF ratio. On the other hand, LPS failed to modify inflammatory or cardiovascular states in rats pretreated with MPP (estrogen receptor α blocker). In females treated with formestane (aromatase inhibitor), LPS increased LF/HF ratio but had no effect on blood pressure. In male rats, the hypotensive and cardiac autonomic effects of LPS were (i) eliminated after treatment with estrogen, and (ii) intensified and inhibited, respectively, in flutamide (androgen receptor blocker)-pretreated rats. These findings highlight important roles for female gonadal hormones and functional estrogen receptor β and progesterone receptors in offsetting inflammatory and cardiovascular derangements caused by endotoxemia in female rats.


Blood pressure; Endotoxemia; Gender difference; Gonadal hormone receptors; Heart rate variability; Inflammation

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