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Comparative Study
. 1996 Mar;121(1):129-38.
doi: 10.1016/0021-9150(95)05710-2.

Inhibition of the Protective Effect of Estrogen by Progesterone in Experimental Atherosclerosis

Comparative Study

Inhibition of the Protective Effect of Estrogen by Progesterone in Experimental Atherosclerosis

H Hanke et al. Atherosclerosis. .


The aim of the present study was to determine the effect of progesterone on the action of estrogen in the development of atherosclerosis. A total of 48 female New Zealand white (NZW) rabbits were ovariectomized. The animals were separated into 6 groups of 8 animals each and received subsequently a 0.5% cholesterol diet for 12 weeks. During this cholesterol feeding period, either estradiol (1 mg/kg body weight (BW)/week), progesterone (25 mg/kg BW/week), or combined estradiol/progesterone (in above dosages) was administered intramuscularly in each group (n = 8 each) of ovariectomized rabbits. One additional group of 8 animals received a combined estrogen/ progesterone regimen, but with progesterone at one third of the above mentioned dosage. In another 8 rabbits, progesterone was reduced to one ninth of the maximum dosage above, whereas estrogen was kept the same, at 1 mg/kg BW/week. Eight ovariectomized animals served as the control group and received no hormone treatment. After 12 weeks, the animals were sacrificed and the proximal aortic arch was removed for further histological examination. An inhibitory effect of estrogen of intimal thickening was found, in comparison to the control group (intimal area: 0.7 +/- 0.5 mm2 vs. 3.7 +/- 2.5 mm2, P < 0.01), whereas progesterone alone did not show a significant effect on intimal plaque size (intimal area: 4.0 +/- 2.3 mm2). In combination with progesterone (high dose), estrogen was not able to reduce intimal atherosclerosis (intimal area: 3.4 +/- 2.4 mm2). However, the beneficial effect of estrogen was not affected by progesterone, when this was reduced respectively to one third (intimal area: 0.8 +/- 0.7 mm2), or to one ninth of the highest dosage (intimal area: 0.6 +/- 0.4 mm2). Interestingly, these differences in atherosclerotic plaque development were observed without significant changes in plasma cholesterol concentrations by the administered hormones. In conclusion, progesterone was dose-dependently able to completely inhibit the beneficial effect of estrogen in experimental atherosclerosis, suggesting that progesterone exerts a direct inhibitory effect on the athero-protective action of estrogen. In the context of recently published data, the present work confirms the importance of the 'non-lipid-mediated', anti-atherosclerotic effect of estrogen, probably due to an interaction with six hormone receptors in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC).

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