Chronic estradiol-17β exposure increases superoxide production in the rostral ventrolateral medulla and causes hypertension: reversal by resveratrol

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2011 Jun;300(6):R1560-8. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00020.2011. Epub 2011 Mar 16.


Women are exposed to estrogen in several forms, such as oral contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapy. Although estrogen was believed to be cardioprotective, lately, its beneficial effects are being questioned. Recent studies indicate that oxidative stress in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM) may play a role in the development of hypertension. Therefore, we hypothesized that chronic exposure to low levels of estradiol-17β (E(2)) leads to hypertension in adult-cycling female Sprague Dawley (SD) rats potentially through generation of superoxide in the RVLM. To test this hypothesis, young adult (3 or 4 mo old) female SD rats were either sham-implanted or implanted (subcutaneously) with slow-release E(2) pellets (20 ng/day) for 90 days. A group of control and E(2)-treated animals were fed lab chow or chow containing resveratrol (0.84 g/kg of chow), an antioxidant. Rats were implanted with telemeters to continuously monitor blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR). At the end of treatment, the RVLM was isolated for measurements of superoxide. E(2) treatment significantly increased mean arterial pressure (mmHg) and HR (beats/min) compared with sham rats (119.6 ± 0.8 vs. 105.1 ± 0.7 mmHg and 371.7 ± 1.5 vs. 354.4 ± 1.3 beats/min, respectively; P < 0.0001). Diastolic and systolic BP were significantly increased in E(2)-treated rats compared with control animals. Superoxide levels in the RVLM increased significantly in the E(2)-treated group (0.833 ± 0.11 nmol/min·mg) compared with control (0.532 ± 0.04 nmol/min·mg; P < 0.05). Treatment with resveratrol reversed the E(2)-induced increases in BP and superoxide levels in the RVLM. In conclusion, these findings support the hypothesis that chronic exposure to low levels of E(2) induces hypertension and increases superoxide levels in the RVLM and that this effect can be reversed by resveratrol treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Eating / drug effects
  • Eating / physiology
  • Estradiol / adverse effects*
  • Estradiol / pharmacology*
  • Estrogens / adverse effects
  • Estrogens / pharmacology
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Hypertension / chemically induced*
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Hypertension / prevention & control
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / drug effects*
  • Medulla Oblongata / metabolism*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Resveratrol
  • Stilbenes / pharmacology*
  • Stilbenes / therapeutic use
  • Superoxides / metabolism*


  • Antioxidants
  • Estrogens
  • Stilbenes
  • Superoxides
  • Estradiol
  • Resveratrol