Psychological stress contributes to the development of hypertension in humans. The ovarian hormone, estrogen, has been shown to prevent stress-induced pressor responses in females by unknown mechanisms. Here, we showed that the antihypertensive effects of estrogen during stress were blunted in female mice lacking estrogen receptor-α in the brain medial amygdala. Deletion of estrogen receptor-α in medial amygdala neurons also resulted in increased excitability of these neurons, associated with elevated ionotropic glutamate receptor expression. We further demonstrated that selective activation of medial amygdala neurons mimicked effects of stress to increase blood pressure in mice. Together, our results support a model where estrogen acts on estrogen receptor-α expressed by medial amygdala neurons to prevent stress-induced activation of these neurons, and therefore prevents pressor responses to stress.
Keywords: amygdala; blood pressure; estrogen; hypertension; neurons.
© 2016 American Heart Association, Inc.