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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2002 Feb;13(2):446-52.

Variation in the renin angiotensin system throughout the normal menstrual cycle.

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Toronto General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


It has been demonstrated elsewhere that circulating renin angiotensin system (RAS) components peak when plasma estrogen levels are highest, during the luteal phase of the normal menstrual cycle. This phenomenon has been attributed to "activation" of the RAS. The end-organ vasoconstrictive response to this phenomenon has not been well established. In two related experiments, the RAS was studied in healthy, premenopausal women during predefined phases of the normal menstrual cycle. In the first experiment, the circulating components of the RAS and the systemic hemodynamic response to incremental lower body negative pressure (LBNP) during the follicular and luteal phases of the menstrual cycle were examined. Response variables included mean arterial pressure (MAP), renin, plasma renin activity (PRA), angiotensin II (AngII), and aldosterone. Baseline levels of renin, PRA, and aldosterone were significantly higher in the luteal phase. In response to LBNP, there were significant increases in all variables in both phases; however, the humoral response to this stimulus was significantly augmented in the luteal phase compared with the follicular phase. Despite these elevations in circulating components of the RAS during the luteal phase, subjects were unable to maintain MAP in response to LBNP, exhibiting a dramatic depressor response that did not occur during the follicular phase. In the second experiment, renal and peripheral hemodynamic function at baseline, and in response to AngII blockade with losartan, were examined in women during these high and low estrogen phases of the menstrual cycle. The renal and peripheral hemodynamic responses were similar in the luteal phase and the follicular phase. These results demonstrate that, despite an increase in circulating RAS components during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, the system is blunted rather than "activated," at least at a tissue level. Further studies are needed to clarify this mechanism.

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