Estrogen is a potent steroid with pleiotropic effects, which have yet to be fully elucidated. Estrogen has both nuclear and non-nuclear effects. The rapid response to estrogen, which involves a membrane associated estrogen receptor(ER) and is protective, involves signaling through PI3K, Akt, and ERK 1/2. The nuclear response is much slower, as the ER-estrogen complex moves to the nucleus, where it functions as a transcription factor, both activating and repressing gene expression. Several different ERs regulate the specificity of response to estrogen, and appear to have specific effects in cardiac remodeling and the response to injury. However, much remains to be understood about the selectivity of these receptors and their specific effects on gene expression. Basic studies have demonstrated that estrogen treatment prevents apoptosis and necrosis of cardiac and endothelial cells. Estrogen also attenuates pathologic cardiac hypertrophy. Estrogen may have great benefit in aging as an anti-inflammatory agent. However, clinical investigations of estrogen have had mixed results, and not shown the clear-cut benefit of more basic investigations. This can be explained in part by differences in study design: in basic studies estrogen treatment was used immediately or shortly after ovariectomy, while in some key clinical trials, estrogen was given years after menopause. Further basic research into the underlying molecular mechanisms of estrogen's actions is essential to provide a better comprehension of the many properties of this powerful hormone.
Published by Elsevier Inc.