Myocardial Akt activation and gender: increased nuclear activity in females versus males

Circ Res. 2001 May 25;88(10):1020-7. doi: 10.1161/hh1001.090858.


Cardiovascular disease risk is higher in men than women, but the basis for this discrepancy remains controversial. Estrogenic stimulation of the myocardium or isolated cardiomyocytes has been purported to exert multiple beneficial effects associated with inhibition of maladaptive responses to pathogenic insults. This report describes a significant difference between the sexes in myocardial activation of Akt, a protein kinase that regulates a broad range of physiological responses including metabolism, gene transcription, and cell survival. We find that young women possess higher levels of nuclear-localized phospho-Akt(473) relative to comparably aged men or postmenopausal women. Both localization of phospho-Akt(473) in myocardial nuclei of sexually mature female mice versus males and Akt kinase activity in nuclear extracts of hearts from female mice versus males are elevated. Cytosolic localization of phospho-forkhead, a downstream nuclear target of Akt, is also increased in female relative to male mice, suggesting a potential mechanism for cardioprotective nuclear signaling resulting from Akt activation. Phospho-Akt(473) levels and localization at cardiac nuclei are similarly increased in transgenic mice with myocardium-specific expression of insulin-like growth factor I, a proven stimulus for Akt activation. Phospho-Akt(473) is also localized to the nucleus of cultured cardiomyocytes after exposure to 17beta-estradiol or genistein (a phytoestrogen in soy protein-based diets), and neonatal exposure of litters to genistein elevated nuclear phospho-Akt(473) localization. The activation of Akt in a gender-dependent manner may help explain differences observed in cardiovascular disease risk between the sexes and supports the potential beneficial effects of estrogenic stimulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / drug effects
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / enzymology
  • Cell Nucleus / drug effects
  • Cell Nucleus / enzymology*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytosol / enzymology
  • Estradiol / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Genistein / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains
  • Myocardium / cytology
  • Myocardium / enzymology*
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Subcellular Fractions / enzymology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Estradiol
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I
  • Genistein
  • AKT1 protein, human
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt