Modulation of Cardiac Hypertrophy by Estrogens

  • Theo Pelzer
  • Asiya Shamim
  • Simone Wölfges
  • Michael Schumann
  • Ludwig Neyses
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 432)


Gender-specific differences in heart disease have long been known but it has only been since the advent of molecular biology that it has become possible to investigate the molecular mechanisms.

Most biochemical work in the last 50 years has focused on the characterization of the steroid hormones involved in gender specificity. More recently, the cloning of the steroid receptors and characterization of the signaling pathways through these proteins has given new insights into the mechanisms underlying the mode of action of steroid hormones. It has also become clear that the steroid receptors can be classified into families (receptors for thyroid hormone, glucocorticoids, estrogens, androgens, retinoic acid, and so called orphan receptors of mostly unknown function). The structures of these receptors show very close resemblance and all are DNA-binding proteins acting as transcription factors. Some (if not all) act as repressors of transcription of some genes in the native state and are converted to activators (or perhaps repressors of other genes) upon binding of the cognate hormone.

Naturally, classical target tissues for estrogens and androgens have been studied first and only in very recent years has it been recognized that estrogens and androgens act on a much wider spectrum of tissues.

In the cardiovascular field, the beneficial effect of estrogen replacement therapy in postmenopausal women which reduces the incidence of cardiovascular disease by some 40% and the lower incidence of cardiovascular disease in premenopausal women have mostly been explained by the beneficial action of estrogens on the lipid profile (increase in HDL and decrease in LDL cholesterol). Recently, functional estrogen receptors have also been shown in vascular smooth muscle cells and in the endothelium.

Our own group has characterized the presence of estrogen receptors in the myocardium and in cardiac fibroblasts. We have also shown that these receptors are transcriptionally active because they are able to drive a minigene composed of a triple estrogen responsive DNA regulatory element (promoter) coupled to the firefly luciferase gene which serves as a reporter by way of its ability to drive a light-emitting reaction.

We are in the process of characterizing the target genes for estrogen in the myocardium. A specific series of immediate-early genes is induced by estradiol (the major premenopausal estrogen) and we have also characterized a number of tissue-specific genes whose expression is driven by estrogens in the myocardium.

The ultimate goal of these investigations is to explore the use of estrogens in the treatment of cardiac hypertrophy (and failure) by way of their properties to counteract (at least some of) the pathological switches in gene expression in these disease entities.


Estrogen Receptor Cardiac Hypertrophy Cardiac Myocytes Estrogen Response Element Human Estrogen Receptor 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Theo Pelzer
    • 1
  • Asiya Shamim
    • 1
  • Simone Wölfges
    • 1
  • Michael Schumann
    • 1
  • Ludwig Neyses
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MedicineUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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