Mechanisms of estrogen effects on the endothelium: an overview

Can J Cardiol. 2014 Jul;30(7):705-12. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2013.08.006. Epub 2013 Nov 16.


In this review, we aim to provide an overview of the recent advances in understanding estrogen effects on the vascular endothelium. Epidemiological studies suggest the female sex hormone estrogen mediates the relative protection of premenopausal women against cardiovascular disease, compared with age-matched men. However, results from clinical trials of exogenous estrogen supplementation in postmenopausal women have been disappointing, generating much controversy about the role of estrogen and demonstrating the need for further research in this field. Here we have discussed the roles of different estrogen receptors (ERs) such as ERα, ERβ, and G-protein coupled receptor 30; the complex genomic and nongenomic signalling pathways downstream to ER activation and the factors such as age, menopause, pregnancy, and diabetes that might alter estrogen responses. The common themes of this discussion are the complexity and diversity of endothelial estrogen responses and their modulation by 1 or more coexisting factors. Finally, we summarize the emerging therapeutic options including improved targeting of individual ERs and signalling pathways that might maximize the therapeutic potential of estrogenic compounds while minimizing their harmful side effects.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Estrogens / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, Estrogen / physiology*
  • Vasodilation / physiology*


  • Estrogens
  • Receptors, Estrogen